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Immigrant communities fought back against 287(g) and won

Commentary by Marisol Marquez |
January 10, 2013
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Tampa, FL - 287(g) is a racist law that was created on Sept. 30, 1996. For 17 years this law has been terrorizing, racially profiling, oppressing and breaking our immigrant families apart. 287(g) gives permission and training to regular police officers to do Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) work whenever ICE is unable to be around. Specifically 287(g) gives permission to local police to ask people in our neighborhoods and on the streets about their immigration status. Since 1996, 287(g) has been responsible for the arrests, abuses and deportations of over 400,000 of our hard-working and exploited immigrants in the U.S.

Recently controversy around 287(g) has grown. In 2010 Kennesaw State University student Jessica Colotl, who at the age of 21 was targeted for being of Mexican origin, by being pulled over by a university police officer and arrested for driving without a license. Jessica's family, friends and members of the community decided to stand up and fight back - their efforts resulted in Jessica having an extended stay in the U.S.

Other immigrants have not been as fortunate. ICE and local agencies using 287(g) are out of control and are directly responsible for thousands of children, who are U.S. citizens, being thrown and forgotten in foster care when their parents are deported. These families may never again have the opportunity to reunite. Mexicano, Central American and Chicano families have been especially hard hit.

When many of us heard 287(g) was going to go up for renewal in 2013, many of our own towns and cities decided to spread the word and come together against it. Enough was enough! The pueblo (people) united and together we fought against the racist oppression 287(g) had brought upon us and we won! ICE announced on Dec. 21, 2012 that it would not be renewing 287(g).

While we are very happy to hear our direct efforts against 287(g) led to its scrapping, we know that this law itself is not what oppresses us. As always, our oppressors find ways to continue oppressing us and it is up to us to continue fighting back.

One way in particular that police and racist community members continue their targeting against immigrants and oppressed nationalities is Secure Communities (S-Comm). While 287(g) gave local police the power to ask people about their immigration status on the streets, Secure Communities just moves that profiling into the jails, forcing local jails to act as ICE agents by scanning everyone who’s booked into a jail for any reason through a national database. As 287(g) has been phased out, Secure Communities has ramped up dramatically and is now being imposed in local jails in the whole country.

S-Comm is responsible for a large number of deportations now, as local jails have been turned into deportation assembly lines. So now if racist local police want to harass immigrants, they just have to arrest someone (for whatever reason or even without a reason), and once they’re booked into the local jail and scanned in the national database, ICE can get their hands on them and the person can be deported even if they are never actually charged with or convicted of any crime.

Our battles are not over. And while we are celebrating the demolishing of 287(g) today, the struggle continues to end the Secure Communities deportation program and all similar programs that continue to tear apart immigrant communities.