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OR Group Says Cops Shouldn't be Immigration Officers, Too

August 28, 2009

PORTLAND - More than 500 civil rights and public safety groups across the country are asking President Obama to end the "287(g) program," so named because it is Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. It trains and authorizes local police officers to enforce immigration laws. The groups say it does more harm than good because it damages community relationships and, in some places, power is being misused.

Although 287(g) has not come to Oregon yet, it expanded to include 19 states this spring. This week, an Oregon advocacy group, Partnership for Safety and Justice, signed a letter to the President protesting the program. Spokesperson Denise Welch says 287(g) promotes racial profiling.

"In other parts of the country, some local law enforcement agencies that have been granted 287g powers are using the program to target communities of color for arrest."

Some parts of Oregon already wrestle with allegations that police are targeting people of color in traffic stops and arrests, Welch says, as well as accusations that immigration raids affect workers more than employers.

"We are concerned that the relationship between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local law enforcement in Oregon appears to be growing closer. We believe that public safety is harmed by policies that encourage mistrust between local communities and law enforcement."

In response to criticism of 287(g) enforcement activities, the Obama administration created a complaint process, but protesters say it is ineffective. The program's supporters call it an inexpensive way to multiply U.S. Immigration and Customs forces, but its critics say it tramples civil rights without making communities any safer.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR