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April 27, 2022

Frederick, Harford, and Cecil Counties continue the 287(g) program, a program marked by racism, xenophobia, and anti-immigrant bias

WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union released a new research report today on Immigrations and Customs Enforcement's 287(g) program, which delegates federal immigration enforcement authority to local and state law enforcement agencies, a draconian program that expanded five fold under the Trump administration. The report, License to Abuse, is the first in-depth and comprehensive review of the character and conduct of local 287(g) partners, primarily county sheriffs, both under the Biden administration and previous administrations.

Researchers examined the 142 state and local law enforcement agencies, including sheriff’s offices and departments of corrections, participating in the 287(g) program and highlighted 54 agencies that are among the most egregious in their violations of people’s civil rights and liberties. The office of Frederick County Sheriff Charles (“Chuck”) Jenkins was among the 54 agencies named, for its past record of racial profiling and civil rights violations, the Sheriff’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, advocacy of inhumane immigration and border policies, and record of evading accountability to the public. In Maryland, there are three sheriff’s offices that have 287(g) programs: the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, and the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office.

In naming Frederick County specifically, the report describes the lawsuit brought by Frederick County resident Sara Medrano and the Resources for Immigrant Support and Empowerment (“RISE”) Coalition in 2019, after Medrano was stopped and detained by two Frederick County deputies who falsely claimed she had a broken tail light and questioned her immigration status. They detained her in violation of her constitutional Fourth Amendment rights, hoping that ICE would come to arrest and deport her. With the support of the ACLU of Maryland, Medrano and the RISE Coalition won an outstanding settlement in their case against the Frederick County Sheriff’s Department: Medrano received $25,000 in damages and a written apology from Sheriff Jenkins for his deputies’ misconduct, and significant reforms such as increased transparency of the 287(g) program and the Sheriff’s policing practices were put into place.

In the National ACLU 287(g) report, key findings include:

  • At least 59% of participating sheriffs have records of anti-immigrant, xenophobic rhetoric, contributing to a continued climate of fear for immigrants and their families and undermining the administration’s racial equity, accountability, and anti-discrimination commitments;
  • At least 55% of sheriffs involved in the program have made statements advocating for inhumane immigration and border enforcement policies and promoting the misinformation and false claims on which they are based. In some cases these sheriffs are actively seeking to defy federal authority in order to preserve the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant, anti-human rights legacy;
  • At least 65% of 287(g) participating agencies have records of a pattern of racial profiling and other civil rights violations, including excessive use of force; and
  • At least 77% of participating sheriffs, local jail authorities and state department of corrections’ commissioners are running detention facilities with serious and extensive records of inhumane conditions, implicating the 287(g) program because when the federal government partners with these jails and prisons it tacitly sanctions these conditions;

“Despite President Biden’s campaign pledge to eliminate 287(g) contracts initiated under the Trump administration, the Biden administration has so far only terminated one 287(g) agreement out of over 140,” said Naureen Shah, senior legislative counsel for the ACLU. “In continuing partnerships with sheriffs who have shameful and persistent records of civil rights violations, particularly against Black and Brown communities, President Biden is sending a message that he sanctions and approves of these abuses. The Biden administration is also undermining its own efforts to repair the harm inflicted by the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda as well as its promise to hold law enforcement accountable for violating the law. The Biden administration should immediately cease working with these agencies, whose conduct is antithetical to the Biden administration’s vision for the country.

The ACLU recommends the Biden administration end the 287 (g) program entirely. It should  begin ending agreements with 54 participating state and local agencies identified by the ACLU as having records of racial profiling and other civil rights violations; records of poor jail or prison conditions and treatment of individuals in its custody; records of anti-immigrant, xenophobic statements; and records of advocating for inhumane immigration and border policies, with implications for whether they will seek to continue indiscriminate arrests and deportations. Included in this list, is the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office in Maryland.

The full report is online here.