Federal law gives the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) the authority to enforce federal immigration law and was established after 9/11 in response to fear and paranoia of future terrorism. DHS, and its sub-agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) enter into agreements with state or local law enforcement to deputize police as federal immigration agents in order to coopt local resources in doing ICE’s work with little training and complete liability if anything goes wrong. The agreements, commonly known as “287(g) Agreements,” comes from the section of our federal immigration laws that allow for these partnerships to be formed. This partnership notoriously enabled former Sheriff Joe Arpaio to terrorize Latinxs in Maricopa County, AZ.

In Maryland, there are currently three counties that have 287(g) agreements: Frederick County, Harford County, and Cecil County. These agreements are entered unilaterally by either the Sheriff (Frederick, Harford and Cecil) or the County Executive, with almost no buy-in from, or accountability to the community, and little to no transparency of how the program actually operates. Police officers are supposed to serve and protect the public. But in areas with a 287(g) program, they are allowed to racially profile “immigrant-looking” people, and sacrifice the trust of the immigrant community to maintain an ideology that secures second-class status for non-US citizen residents, and entrenches racism and xenophobia against immigrants of color. When community members cannot trust law enforcement, crimes go unreported and witnesses do not cooperate in the investigation of crimes.

The ACLU of Maryland rejects these partnerships because of the toll they take on the community, and the sustained trauma inflicted on immigrant families for being treated like they have done something wrong for merely existing in one of these counties.  

UPDATE: Thanks to the work of organizers and CASA, in December of 2018 Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman ended the county's 287(g) program.


RISE UP: How Black and Brown immigrants are gaining power in Frederick (EP. 01)

Currently, DHS only negotiates “jail agreements,” which allow local police to act like federal immigration agents within local jails. This results in local police questioning individuals in these jails about their immigration status, preparing documents to charge them for immigration violations, and ordering the continued detention of persons thought to be subject to deportation. 

Public Safety?

Proponents of these immigration agreements are usually justified on the premise of public safety, but this is fake news.

In Frederick County:

  • 80+ percent of the 287(g) arrests were for low level offenses and
  • 60+ percent were for traffic offenses.[1]

A 2018 study of Mexican immigrants who were undocumentedshowed that:

  • 61 percent are less likely to report crimes that they witnessed, and
  • 43 percent less likely to report being the victim of a crime.[2]

Financial Costs?

ICE covers the cost of training deputized officers, but state and local governments have to pay the majority of costs associated with a 287(g) program including travel, housing, and per diem for officers during training; salaries; overtime; other personnel costs; and administrative supplies.


Local police officers are also wholly unprepared to act as immigration agents in local jails. Officers must learn about how to enforce complex federal immigration law in just a four-week Immigration Authority Delegation Program, while Deportation Officers have to go through a 12-16 week course Immigration Law Enforcement Training Program, in order to enforce the law. The inadequacy of the training involved in 287(g) program leads to civil rights violations such as racial profiling, false arrests, and other civil rights violations. It can also lead to significant harassment by law enforcement of the immigrant community, like what happened to Bernardo Gabriel.  

[1] Capps, R., Rosenblum, M. R., Chishti, M., & Rodríguez, C. (n.d.). Delegation and Divergence: 287(g) State and Local Immigration Enforcement(pp. 1-73, Rep.). Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute. doi:https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/delegation-and-divergence-287g-state-and-local-immigration-enforcement

[2] Lopez, L. M. (2018, May 8). How 287(g) Agreements Harm Public Safety [Web log post]. Retrieved September 4, 2018, from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/news/2018/05/08/450439/287g-agreements-harm-public-safety/