Today, the New York Times opined on the late Friday afternoon announcement from DHS/ICE that 287(g) authorization was granted to an additional 11 law enforcement agencies, including one here in my home state of Georgia. Gwinnett County, which has had the distinction for the last 10 years of being one of the fasted growing counties in America (mostly becuase of immigrants), held a dry run of 287(g) earlier this year, resulting in hundreds of arrests of those driving without a license and other minor traffic violations, wreaking havoc in the immigrant community, and in general causing widespread panic among immigrants there.
This major expansion of 287(g) is a disaster for immigrants, not just because those who are undocumented will become ensnared in the nightmare enforcement system we currently have, but rather because we know it will create “profiling” issues, (DWH-Driving While Hispanic), will lead to increased fear in immigrant communities, and absolute distrust of law enforcement officers trying to protect those same immigrants from real criminals.
More importantly, and something no one seems to be talking about yet, is the incredibly negative impact that selective law enforcement against immigrants will have on the outcome of the next U.S. Census, which begins in 2010. Ask yourself, as an immigrant are you more or less likely to answer that knock on the door from a U.S. Census worker in a locale that has a 287(g) agreement? That answer is crystal clear. Many national immigrant groups are actively trying to urge immigrants to answer the Census materials they will receive by mail, but we all know that door-to-door census taking, required to actually count folks, will simply not achieve the same result it otherwise would have in 287(g) communities.
Some might applaud the fact that immigrants will almost certainly be undercounted in the next U.S. Census, absent timely comprehensive immigration reform THIS YEAR. I hope they are not in the majority in Congress. To avoid this looming crisis, DHS/ICE needs to put an end to the improper enforcement of immigration law by local police and sheriffs who are NOT trained in the nuanced issues of immigration status, and refocus their efforts on enforcement by ICE against employers who intentionally break U.S. law by hiring people they know to be undocumented.
The bottom line is clear–there are no easy answers to immigration enforcement, or the Census, until Congress fixes this broken immigration system.