Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, doesn’t need to look any further than his own backyard to see how anti-immigration policy works, or rather doesn’t work.
The author of the much debated “sanctuary city bill” has a district that’s known for being tough on illegal immigration. His hometown, Carrollton, is one of two Texas cities that adopted a controversial Homeland Security program, which requires law enforcement to check citizenship status. But the program, called 287 (g), has yet to prove successful. Even Homeland Security is critical.
The program has two components and communities can choose to implement one or both. Carrollton implemented one part in 2009, which allows police officers trained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to check the immigration status of those they detain. Neighboring city Farmers Branch implemented the other, more controversial, component, which allows trained officers to enforce immigration laws during their daily routine. It makes both towns about as far from “sanctuary cities” as you can get.
The program is not restricted to Texas— currently 71 law enforcement agencies in 25 states have adopted 287(g). The federal program effectively turns police officers into immigration enforcers. Similarly, Solomons’ anti-sanctuary city bill requires cities and towns to let police officers enforce immigration law.
But the federal program hasn’t exactly been a success. Critics have long argued that when police officers become ICE agents, law enforcement can turn into a witch hunt for undocumented residents. Those fears have been realized. A study done by the University of North Carolina which found that 95% of individuals booked through the program were charged with misdemeanors, 60% of those being traffic violations not including drunk driving.
The same problems appear to be true in Texas. Accion America, an advocacy group based out of Dallas, estimates that more than 90 percent of those deported in Carrollton and Farmers Branch were stopped for only minor offenses. Such results aren’t shocking. The program inherently promotes a systematic form of racial profiling that can tear apart immigrant families and distract law enforcement agents from larger problems.
Even the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration enforcement, isn’t happy with the program. A 2010 report from the department shows the program lacked proper oversight and had been misused to target minor offense rather than violent crimes. Some speculate that problem will be compounded because undocumented individuals will fail to report crimes out of fear of deportation. While police officers are busy looking for individuals of a tanner persuasion driving pickups with broken taillights, real criminals are running free.
If the 287(g) program is any indication of how proposed anti-immigration legislation in Texas will pan out, we can expect some gross racial profiling and maybe even an increase in crime. Solomons may know a thing or two about immigration, but he should take some lessons from his own hometown before trying to implement a similar policy statewide.