Immigration-Based Policing Too Costly

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California called on Sheriffs across California to end costly and harmful practices that target immigrant communities.  The call accompanies a report highlighting personal stories, cost data and proposals to protect public safety while reducing the fiscal and human costs of local enforcement practices.  The report is informed by meetings and correspondence with communities across Northern California and over twenty law enforcement agencies. “Most law enforcement officers do not want to double as federal immigration agents.  They know that it discourages witnesses and victims of crime from coming forward and ultimately harms public safety for everyone,” said ACLU-NC Staff Attorney Julia Harumi Mass.

The report reviews the legal framework for current police practices in immigrant communities, noting that California’s large undocumented immigrant population creates significant pressures and challenges for peace officers and departments. Residents with immigrant backgrounds, regardless of immigration status, can mistakenly become targets of unwanted law enforcement attention. This increases local liability risks for law enforcement agencies; the report includes a sample of lawsuits against local law enforcement agencies for actions related to immigration enforcement, including racial profiling. Many cases begin with minor traffic violations before growing into questions of legal residency.

Ninety percent of the state’s counties have formally partnered with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement through the “Secure Communities” program to check if inmates are legal residents, and all but six rural counties have linked with the “Enforcement Case Tracking System,” a central database of federal immigration records. The database allows local police to check inmates’ legal status by running their fingerprints. When the system makes a match, officers learn a suspect’s entire documented immigration history and whether ICE wants to place a “hold” on the suspect, which requires the police agency to detain the individual until immigration agents can take custody.

These holds, and the related expense, are among the main concerns the ACLU discusses in its report. It states:  “ICE provides limited reimbursement only for immigrant detainees who have been convicted of one felony or two misdemeanor offenses and who are held for at least 4 consecutive days. Therefore, available reimbursements do not cover the actual costs of holding pre-conviction immigration detainees.” The report author Amalia Greenberg Delgado says: “At a time of shrinking police departments’ staff and budgets, we hope California’s law enforcement leadership will review unnecessarily costly practices and rebuild trust with communities.”


Title: ACLU to Sheriffs: Immigration Based Policing Too Costly

Source/Author: American Civil Liberties Union  February 16, 2011



Title: ACLU: Local taxpayers paying for federal immigration enforcement


Author: Ryan Gabrielson



Title: Costs and Consequences: The High Price of Policing Immigrant Communities

Source: ACLU February 2011

Authors: Amalia Greenberg Delgado and Julia Harumi



Student Researcher: Amy Ortiz, Sonoma State University

Faculty Evaluator: Janet Hess, Sonoma State University