Today, I visited Waukesha for “A Day Without Latinxs and Immigrants.” Attendees left work, closed our businesses, and marched together in protest of the County Sheriff’s decision to allow his local law enforcement officers to serve as an extension of ICE.
Waukesha County Sheriff Eric Severson recently decided to participate in a federal program called 287g, which has been pushed by President Trump and AG Jeff Sessions as part of their crackdown on immigrant communities. Under this program, local law enforcement officers are allowed to interrogate and detain community members based on their perceived immigration status. Programs like this have repeatedly been found to increase racial profiling and to a decrease in reporting crimes. It serves to effectively drive immigrants, even those who may have legal status but live in mixed-status families, into the shadows. It seeks to create a world, effectively, without Latinxs and immigrants.
My father was a Milwaukee police officer for over two decades. He taught me that police officers can’t protect the community if the community isn’t willing to talk to them. Programs like 287g make witnesses and victims of crimes too scared to report those crimes to police, because they believe it could lead to their deportation. So, contrary to some of the extreme rhetoric I’ve heard about so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions, it’s programs like 287g that actually leave the really dangerous criminals on the street. That’s part of why studies have shown crime is, on average, lower in sanctuary counties than non-sanctuary counties.
287g is also expensive for taxpayers. According to the agreement signed by ICE and Sheriff Severson in February, Waukesha County will pay for virtually all of the expenses associated with 287g: staff time, overtime, travel costs, even paper and pens. This isn’t unusual. In a Government Accountability Office survey of participating agencies, 62 percent reported that they did not receive any federal reimbursement for 287g. There is also the cost of potential lawsuits. Sheriff Arpaio’s Maricopa County has paid millions of dollars to attorneys, and ultimately to victims, in the civil rights lawsuits that were filed as a result.
287g does nothing to keep our communities safer, but it does endanger the American Dream. The immigrants I’ve had the privilege to met and work alongside didn’t want to uproot from their native country, but they felt they had no choice. They had no other way to provide a better future for their kids. I think most of us can understand that. Who would stay somewhere they felt they couldn’t keep their child safe?
So I hope you’ll join me today in reflecting how different your community would be without Latinxs and immigrants. And I’ll hope you conclude too, as I have, that our friends and neighbors do not deserve to be prosecuted under 287g.