The following article appeared in the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, VA. Access the Daily News-Record online at www.dnronline.com.
Supervisors Take No Action To Renew 287g
Posted: October 25, 2012
By JEREMY HUNT
HARRISONBURG — Rockingham County deputies won’t enforce federal immigration law for the foreseeable future.
Bucking a recommendation by Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson, the Board of Supervisors elected Wednesday not to extend the local government’s 287g contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The agreement expired last week, and ICE had offered to extend it through Dec. 31.
Without commenting on the matter, the board took no action on the 287g Memorandum of Agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, effectively leaving the contract null.
About 100 opponents of the program who packed the board’s meeting room celebrated afterward, including many who’ve spoken out against 287g publicly in the past.
Speaking later, some board members said immigration is a federal issue that should be addressed with comprehensive reform.
The future of 287g nationwide is uncertain, as ICE is reviewing the program and hasn’t said whether it will continue next year.
Enacted in 1996 and revised in 2009, the 287g program allows state and local law enforcement agencies to enforce some aspects of immigration law within their jurisdictions.
Critics say it leads to racial profiling, stokes fear in immigrant communities and is enforced arbitrarily.
Police, however, say it’s a tool to help identify undocumented immigrants who commit serious crimes.
The three-year agreement between the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office and Immigration and Customs Enforcement expired Oct. 17.
Hutcheson said ICE asked for an extension through the end of the year while the agency reviews the contract, which could be revised or canceled altogether.
The sheriff recommended the county extend the contract for now and then see what ICE proposes beyond that.Regardless, he said, officers will continue to serve the community.
“We’re proud to do it with honor and respect for all our citizens,” he said.
Isabel Castillo, an undocumented immigrant and advocate for immigrant rights, addressed the board on behalf of the opponents. Castillo said 287g has caused such fear that many people won’t call police or even the fire department when they need to because of their immigration status.
Castillo, along with the advocacy group Virginia Organizing, also alleges that minor offenses such as traffic violations have led to deportation proceedings, even though the program is only intended to target criminals.
“While we support our law enforcement … 287g is causing problems,” she said. But local law enforcement officials say suspected undocumented immigrants were only questioned about their status after they were booked at Rockingham County Jail for committing another crime.
Hutcheson, commenting after the board effectively opted out of 287g, said he respected the supervisors’ decision, even though he disagrees with it. “We’re going to continue to do our job to the best of our ability,” he said.
The sheriff’s office will continue coordinating with local ICE agents to screen suspected illegal immigrants as it has done since the contract expired, Hutcheson said.
Supervisors Mike Breeden, Pablo Cuevas and Fred Eberly agreed that immigration is an issue the federal government needs to address. “There’s a lot of considerations,” Eberly added.
Breeden said he saw no compelling reason to act on the agreement. “I don’t think what we’ve done here tonight weakens the sheriff’s ability to enforce the laws of the land,” he said.
Cuevas said he “found it kind of odd” that ICE contacted the sheriff’s office about extending the agreement a few days before it expired, that it was a 2½-month extension and comes just before the Nov. 6 presidential election.
Board Chairman Bill Kyger said people in need should not have apprehensions about calling law enforcement or other public safety personnel.“I’m hoping no one in our community, no matter what their status is, ever has to live in fear so much that they can’t contact anyone when they need to,” he said.
Contact Jeremy Hunt at 574-6273 or firstname.lastname@example.org