Bensalem Police Department applies for new immigration program


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Bensalem Police Department applied for the 287(g), which allows police officers to perform the duties of Immigration officers

Eliyana Abraham, Campus Life Editor

The Bensalem Police Department previously applied for the 287(g) program — a training program which allows police officers to perform the duties of Immigration officers — under the Obama administration, and were denied. Now, they are attempting once more.
287(g) is partners local law enforcement officers with U.S Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) to help enforce immigration laws. This program had primarily laid dormant under the Obama administration, however, has been revived since the election of President Trump, and has since been adopted by 60 law enforcement agencies in 18 different states.
The 287(g) allows ICE to enter into Memoranda of Agreement with state or local police departments, and deputize selected officers to perform the functions of federal immigration officers. The officers are accepted based on criteria created by ICE. Following approval for the program, officers train in a four-week basic training course in Charleston, SC.
The 287(g) program permits law enforcement officers i.e local police officers to perform actions such as, but not limited to, interviewing individuals to ascertain their immigration status, access Department of Homeland Security databases for information on individuals, issue immigration detainers to hold individuals until ICE takes custody, make recommendations for detention and immigration bond, and transfer undocumented citizens into ICE custody.
Many citizens are concerned with what the introduction of this program could bring for our undocumented neighbors and friends. Many fear that the program will promote racial profiling, and fail to actually target serious criminals. Many community members also feel that Bensalem PD’s application to enter this program is concerningly exposing in their priorities.
According to The Inquirer, Township Public Safety Director Fred Harran said law-abiding undocumented immigrants have nothing to fear, and that the partnership would come into play only when a crime is committed for which an officer would make an arrest.” Thus, if arrested and found undocumented, the individual would be transferred to ICE custody and possibly deported.
Therefore, the concern posed by many is that the program will break up families for crimes such as traffic violations, without prioritizing serious crime.
According the the American Immigration Council, “In the past, the 287(g) program has been costly for localities, has not focused on serious criminals, and has harmed the relationship between police and local communities.”
According to The Inquirer, Harran also said, “Here’s the trick not to get deported: If you’re in this country undocumented, obey the law. Don’t commit a crime, and you’re not going to have a problem in Bensalem Township.”
Again, many are concerned that the 287(g) program coming to Bucks County will create a culture of fear, promote racist, ignorant ideas, and make the community less safe for all citizens. Some have compared the program to Jim Crow style policy.
An investigation by the Department of Justice concluded that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona—a county which adopted 287(g)—engaged in racial profiling of Latinos, as well as unlawfully stopping, detaining, arresting Latinos.
The same investigation also found that the MSCO, through its detention officers and staff, regularly punished Latino inmates for failing to understand commands given in English, and failed to provide to them the same critical services provided to other inmates.
Additionally, in the past, ICE has failed to provide sufficient supervision in order to ensure that local law enforcement officers comply with the terms of the 287(g) agreement. A 2010 report from the DHS Office of Inspector General found that ICE had not effectively overseen 287(g) operations and activities, and that “as a result, ICE has limited its ability to ensure that local jurisdictions are conducting 287(g) activities as intended.”
If approved, Bensalem PD will be the first local law enforcement agency in Pennsylvania to join in the 287(g) partnership with ICE.