Earlier this month, newly elected Charleston Sheriff Kristin Graziano ended the county’s 287g agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for sewing distrust with immigrant communities and its inefficient use of taxpayer money.
What is the 287(g) Program?
The 287(g) program allows state and local police officers to enter into a voluntary agreement with the federal government to enforce federal immigration laws. Specifics of the program differ for each locality, but generally the program allows local law enforcement to:
- Inquire about, and confirm, the immigration status of any individual taken into custody, and
- To coordinate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to initiate deportation proceedings for persons here without immigration status.
Why did Charleston County’s Sheriff end its 287(g) Program?
- Because the 287(g) Program does little to remove violent criminals from the community.
The federal legislation authorizing the 287g program was passed to target violent criminals and rapidly transfer them into deportation proceedings. As Sherriff Graziano explained, the data from Charleston (as does data from other counties with 287(g) agreements) shows the program does not improve public safety, because it doesn’t actually focus on violent criminals.
According to ICE data, in 2019 they “encountered” nearly 25,000 individuals through the program and nearly 75% of those individuals had no criminal history. ICE only deported 5,000 convicted criminals nationwide through the program. Sheriff Graziano said the agreement changed over the past three years, from a targeted effort to catch violent offenders to “a blanketed mission of any offender here undocumented, regardless of whether they committed any crimes.”
- Because the 287(g) Program is expensive to operate.
The federal government only reimburses counties for about half of the costs they incur to perform federal immigration enforcement duties under 287(g). Sherriff Graziano found that it costs Charleston County about $4 million dollars a year to operate its 287(g) agreement.
- Because the 287(g) Program has devastating impacts on Charleston’s immigrant community and communities of color.
Most importantly, Sherriff Graziano recognized that Charleston’s 287(g) agreement has had devastating impacts on Charleston’s residents of color and especially the Latinx community and apologized. Fear of being detained and deported through the Program have led to “a breakdown of trust between the sheriff’s office and local immigrant communities.”
In response, Fernando Soto of the Charleston Immigration Coalition said “That’s a powerful recognition. There was a woman there with her three kids who told me her husband was deported after a traffic stop and now she was alone in raising her kids. Another community member said she’s relieved that this agreement is gone, she knows women, some mothers whose husbands have ended up deported for traffic violations.”
What else do I need to know about the 287(g) Program in South Carolina?
York, Horry, and Lexington counties still have 287(g) agreements with ICE. For information in multiple languages about your rights as an immigrant encountering law enforcement and what to do if you come into contact with law enforcement, visit the Catholic Legal Immigration Network’s website.
Community experiences with 287(g) and data from the Program show that rather than making communities safer, it has little impact on removing violent criminal, is expensive, devastates local families with separation, and harms the relationship between police and local communities. We urge leaders in York, Horry, and Lexington Counties to follow Charleston’s lead and make the right decision to end their costly and ineffective 287(g) Programs.