One night, struggling to sleep, I opened my News app and browsed some articles, hoping that reading would help me relax enough to get some rest. I came across a Time article, written by Maya Rhodan: “President Trump Wants Sheriffs to Help With Deportations. Here’s What Sheriffs Think.” Needless to say, I was so excited by this article and its implications to what we’ve been talking about in class that, alas, I did not fall back asleep.
The article discusses 287(g), a “voluntary program” under the jurisdiction of Immigration and Customs Enforcement that “lets the feds deputize state and local officers to perform some of the duties of federal immigration agents.” Essentially, police agencies in communities that take part in 287(g) are granted many of the same powers as ICE agents, some even obtaining the ability to “patrol the streets and identify undocumented immigrants in the community for removal.” With the recent issuance of President Trump’s travel bans and his controversial stance on immigration, community-based police agencies have taken different viewpoints on how to proceed, especially in regard to 287(g).
Though the number of police agencies using 287(g) declined under the Obama administration, many agencies have recently taken efforts to install 287(g) with the beginning of Trump’s presidency. The article listed Anne Arundel County, Maryland, Tarrant County, Texas, and Beaufort County, South Carolina as having slightly different goals yet all looking to obtain some of the power provided under 287(g). Trump’s Homeland Security Secretary, John Kelly, gives an explanation for much of the motivation behind such actions: “[e]mpowering state and local law enforcement to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law is critical to an effective enforcement strategy.” Still, not all communities share this viewpoint.
Other communities have taken a different stance under the Trump administration, refusing to partake in 287(g). Lawrence Byrne, a member of the New York City Police Department, gives his view: “We’re not here to enforce federal, civil immigration laws. We don’t enforce federal civil debt collection laws. We’re a criminal law agency. Our mission is to prevent crime, investigate crime, and prevent acts of terrorism.” Marshalltown, Iowa’s chief of police, Mike Tupper, is also against participating in 287(g), though his reasoning is a bit different: “The nuts and bolts of policing is daily interaction with the community that you’re serving. It’s very difficult to do that when you’re engaged in federal immigration enforcement.” Still another community, Harris County, Texas, refuses to partake, with its Sheriff Ed Gonzalez citing budgetary concerns and a desire to “focus on community policing.”
In reading about the communities that refused to participate in 287(g) and the reasoning behind their actions, I began to notice some corollaries between the article and what we’ve discussed in class. More specifically, their actions seem to reflect much of what we’ve discussed about law, order, and the role of American police. Lawrence Byrne of the NYPD, through his focus on investigating crime and preventing both crime and terrorism, suggests a desire to focus on order, not law. This aligns with the typical, historical role of American police. Likewise, Byrne, Mike Tupper of Iowa, and Sheriff Ed Gonzalez of Texas all prefer to stick to community-based policing, the usual, historical boundary of American police.
Though President Trump’s administration has, in many respects, obliterated the status quo of American politics, many American police agencies demonstrate a desire to stick to their historical roles and areas of operation. In doing so, their actions reflect many aspects of policing that we’ve discussed in class and provide an interesting commentary on the present-day effects of the history of policing.