2012-04-05 10:00:00

End -- Don’t Mend -- Broken Enforcement Program

The National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights  applauds the Obama administration’s decision to reduce funding for the enforcement program, 287(g). As well, their proposal, released April 2, that immigrants without documentation, who are immediate relatives of citizens, be allowed to stay in the United States while applying for permanent residency.

But at the same time, we warn that more needs to be done because harmful parts of the 287(g) program will continue to operate, and millions of dollars each year continue to be funneled into the Secure Communities program (S-Comm).

This week, more than 3,100 people were arrested as part of a six-day nationwide deportation sweep meant to capture immigrants convicted of serious crimes. Many of the people detained in the sweep included those who had been deported, but out of desperation to reunite with family members or children, had re-entered the United States – making them guilty of a felony that can carry a 20-year prison term.

These policies leave many of our most vulnerable women exposed, with no hope of getting redress from the American justice system.

Take the case of Elena Cabrera. In October, Cabrera came home tired, hoping for sleep, after a night of work. When she refused to do house chores, her boyfriend attacked and beat her, leaving her lip bloody and bruises on her face. Like many victims of domestic violence, Cabrera turned to the police.

Local law enforcement officials did arrest her attacker — but they also arrested Cabrera, forcing her to leave her four minor children at home, alone. She spent several days in jail, and then, under S-Comm,
officials turned her over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which also detained her. Cabrera’s 17-year-old daughter was left to care for her three siblings, while trying to find and contact her mother.

Cabrera’s story is only one of many that can be traced directly back to the S-Comm policy. Thanks to
S-Comm, too many community members, including survivors of domestic violence, have called 911 for help only to find themselves arrested, detained, and in deportation proceedings. In addition, a recent Department of Homeland Security investigation into Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department found such egregious, systemic racial profiling and discrimination against Latino/as, that his participation in the program was restricted.

The administration’s decision to reduce funding for 287(g) is a commonsense approach because it seeks to cut a costly program that does little except hurt the safety and integrity of our communities. But the administration stops short of a fully sensible approach. Its decision to maintain the 287(g) jail programs and to continue expanding S-Comm ignores ample evidence about the harm these programs do to our communities. We encourage the administration to listen to our warnings about these damaging programs before more families and communities are torn apart.

For more information on the 287(g) program and S-Comm, check our fact sheet here:

Jessica González-Rojas is the executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH). Miriam Yeung is executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF). NAPAWF and NLIRH are Steering Committee members of the National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights (NCIWR).

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