Should South Jersey Corrections Officers Enforce Federal Immigration Laws? ACLU Says No

A South Jersey jail’s corrections officers could soon be able to question detainees about their residency status, regardless of the crime they committed, and process them for immigration violations.

The possibility of this new role has sparked concern from the American Civil Liberties Union, which says the move could stoke fear and distrust between authorities and communities in Salem County, where nearly 16,000 of the 64,000 residents are minorities. The county is 45 miles southwest of Philadelphia.

The ACLU has urged the county’s correctional facility not to participate in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 287(g) program, which offers local law enforcement agencies powers similar to those of federal immigration agents. Thirty-two agencies across the U.S. use the program, including two in North Jersey, according to federal officials.

Advocates say the program targets immigrants with violent histories who are here illegally, not others. In the last two years at Hudson County’s Correctional Center, fewer than 1 percent of people detained and taken there by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials – 64 of 8,000 – have been identified as violent offenders who should be targeted for deportation, county spokesman Jim Kennelly said. The others were given due process in court, he said.

Critics say the program unfairly targets Latino communities. They point to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona, which used the program until 2011, when the U.S. Justice Department discovered the office was racially profiling Latinos through unlawful stops and detentions.

By Michael Boren of
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