The American Civil Liberties Union released a new research report on Immigrations and Customs Enforcement's 287(g) program, which delegates federal immigration enforcement authority to local and state law enforcement agencies and which expanded five-fold under the Trump administration and continues under the Biden administration.
The report, License to Abuse, is the first in-depth and comprehensive review of the character and conduct of local 287(g) partners, primarily county sheriffs, both under the Biden administration and previous administrations.
Researchers examined the 142 state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide, including sheriff’s offices and departments of corrections, participating in the 287(g) program. Of the 54 Texas agencies still participating in the program, the 10 most egregious county sheriff’s in Texas were found in: Aransas County Sheriff’s Office, Galveston County Sheriff’s Office, Goliad County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Nueces County Sheriff’s Office, Smith County Sheriff’s Office, Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, Waller County Sheriff’s Office, and Walker County Sheriff’s Office. The report identified a total of 26 participating agencies in the state of Texas with issues of abusive or concerning practices.
Nationwide, at least 59% of participating sheriffs have records of anti-immigrant, xenophobic rhetoric. At least 55% of sheriffs involved in the program have made statements advocating for inhumane immigration and border enforcement policies and promoting the misinformation and false claims on which they are based. And at least 65% of 287(g) participating agencies have records of a pattern of racial profiling and other civil rights violations, including excessive use of force.
Key examples in Texas presented in the report include:
- ICE signed an agreement with the sheriff’s department in Goliad County in 2017. There, Sheriff Roy Boyd posted signs in Spanish threatening the immigrant community , “we will not have a sovereign country anymore,” and described immigration enforcement as a “fight between good and evil”
- ICE renewed an agreement with Sheriff Bill Waybourn of Tarrant County in 2020. In 2019, Waybourn traveled to the White House to speak at an event with then-ICE Acting Director Matt Albence. Referring to immigrants, Waybourn repeated racist and xenophobic tropes about immigrants in the community.
At least 21 people died in the custody of the sheriff’s department in Tarrant County in 2020.
- State records show expenses related to detaining undocumented immigrants in the Nueces County Jail increased from about $2,400 in 2015 to more than $193,000 in 2018. “This is a stunning increase that demands a broader community discussion,” said Claudia Rueda, a member of the Corpus Christi Immigration Coalition. “Taxpayer dollars, as well as the time and attention of local law enforcement, should be prioritized for local needs.”
“The Biden administration should honor its own campaign pledge and end 287(g) contracts — which effectively make the administration a partner in the racial profiling and civil rights abuses,” said Edgar Saldivar, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Texas. “Immigrant rights advocates have long known and made public our serious concerns about the racial profiling and civil rights abuses enabled by 287(g) contracts. Growing significantly under the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda, the 287(g) program has become a megaphone for racist and xenophobic rhetoric by sheriffs’ offices and other law enforcement agencies, particularly in Texas.
“The Biden administration should immediately cease working with these agencies, whose conduct is antithetical to the president’s vision for the country.”
The ACLU recommends the Biden administration end the 287(g) program entirely. It should begin ending agreements with 54 participating state and local agencies identified by the ACLU as having records of racial profiling and other civil rights violations; records of poor jail or prison conditions and treatment of individuals in its custody; records of anti-immigrant, xenophobic statements; and records of advocating for inhumane immigration and border policies, with implications for whether they will seek to continue indiscriminate arrests and deportations.