In defending the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Office’s decision to renew a cooperation agreement with federal immigration authorities, Attorney General Jeff Landry recently used this newspaper to endorse harmful policies and stereotypes that are totally at odds with the facts and our values as Louisianans.
First, it’s important to set the record straight about 287(g) agreements, which deputize state and local law enforcement with immigration enforcement powers. The Trump administration has resurrected these agreements as part of its mass deportation agenda, and it’s disappointing that some local law enforcement authorities are going along with this counterproductive approach.
Local law enforcement is only as strong as the bonds of trust they have with the community. That means making sure victims feel safe reporting a crime or showing up at the courthouse to testify. These agreements betray that trust by entangling local law enforcement agencies with federal immigration authorities who do not share the same goals. Local police should be focused on keeping our streets safe and building trust with the community, not stepping into ICE’s shoes to poorly enforce our country’s broken immigration laws. That’s why leading law enforcement organizations, including the Major Cities Chiefs Association, oppose these agreements.
In addition to undermining public safety, these agreements also raise serious concerns for civil rights. The 287(g) program has been known to lead to the unconstitutional racial profiling of immigrants, as was seen when Sheriff Joe Arpaio terrorized immigrant communities in Arizona.
But the most disheartening aspect of Attorney General Landry’s piece was his attempt to stoke fears about undocumented immigrants living in our communities. We have recently seen the senseless violence and tragic consequences that ensue when political leaders scapegoat the immigrant community. Our elected leaders have a responsibility to ensure the safety of all members of the community, not just those that share their ethnic background and country of origin. And research shows that undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes that native-born citizens. Or put another way: undocumented immigrants make our communities safer just by being here.
Anti-immigrant fear mongering will not make Louisiana safer. It will only separate us and destabilize our neighborhoods and communities.
We encourage local law enforcement authorities to reject these harmful agreements and focus on more effective approaches to policing that respect the rights of everyone within our borders.
Alanah Odoms Hebert
executive director, American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana