The Difficulties in Fighting 287(g)

I’ve been thinking about Juana Villegas DeLaPaz all night and what we can do to fight 287(g).  I mean, if scooping a pregnant woman off the street, keeping her in custody for the birth of her child, tearing that child from her arms, and then releasing her in the dead of night, like the whole purpose of the exercise was just to humiliate and terrify her, isn’t the catalyst for changing this nightmare, what ever will be?

But I’m going to be honest with you, I think a great number of things stand in the way of us ever effectively overturning 287(g).  Here they are:

1.  Many people don’t give a shit.  It’s not happening to them or people they care about, so, so what?

2.  A number of people are just racist assholes who believe the United States is “for” white people and so any program that seems to reduce the number of non-white people in the United States is fine with them.

3.  A great many people don’t want “ordinary” folks to suffer, but they’ve been lead to believe that the whole purpose of 287(g) is, as it says on the ICE site, is to protect people from bad guys–

The cross-designation between ICE and state and local patrol officers, detectives, investigators and correctional officers working in conjunction with ICE allows these local and state officers:  necessary resources and latitude to pursue investigations relating to violent crimes, human smuggling, gang/organized crime activity, sexual-related offenses, narcotics smuggling and money laundering; and increased resources and support in more remote geographical locations.

–and though they don’t like the thought of ordinary folks necessarily getting caught up in 287(g), if it means that they’ll be safer from the gangs and the drug dealers and so on, well, then, that’s a price they’re willing to pay.  What they don’t take into consideration, I believe, are two things: 1. That the police will find ways to keep busy.  There aren’t a lot of gangs and big time drug dealers or human smugglers in Berry Hill.  But there are some women going to a prenatal clinic.  If you feel a mandate to go after illegal immigrants, the vast majority of illegal immigrants in your community are pretty un-nefarious.  Which leads me to 2.  Cops aren’t stupid.  If you felt pressure to bring in illegal immigrants and you had your choice between arresting a woman so pregant she would put up little fight and be easy to catch if she ran or chasing down down some armed 20 year old gang-banging drug dealer, which would you pick?  Both count as a “win” in the war on undocumented people.

It seems to me that 287(g), though it’s sold as a tool for more effectively going after dangerous criminals, actually rewards the police for going after people who are not dangerous instead.  And, if you are a police officer, don’t you want to spend your days arresting people who pose little or no risk to you?  That seems to me to be only human nature.

–The powers-that-be believe they only have to keep a small number of powerful Hispanic Community Activists somewhat appeased and that they then can just continue to do whatever they want.  Tim Chavez was kind enough to send me the email release Metro PD sent out to Hispanic leaders to explain their (non) role in this shameful affair and it says just what Chavez said it says, that Metro PD wasn’t involved and that this is totally between Berry Hill and the Davidson County Sheriff.  Which is fine.

But what I found interesting is that the email was sent to only a handful of people.  I won’t name them, because it’s not my place to, but it’s the handful you’d expect probably heard about this, thought it was an outrage, and worked to get this resolved.

Which, again, is fine.  I’m not knocking that manner of getting things done, if it indeed gets stuff done.

My worry is that, as long as there are a handful of powerful Hispanic community leaders and they’re who this stuff gets sent to and who resolves it AND IT NEVER GETS MUCH BEYOND THEM, the Sheriff’s department never has to step back and look at 287(g) as a whole, because problems are handled individually and quietly, as if the problems are anomolies and not inherent in the system.

I hope my point is clear, because I am not at all dogging on the folks who are working hard in the system to try to fix things.  I’m just saying that we cannot lose sight of the fact that, if the Sheriff can confine the work that gets done in opposition to 287(g) to a small group of people he knows well, he also has little impetus to change.

The model of “small group of powerful people make deals to protect the powerless” can work in the short term, but when it’s not accompanied by the threat of a larger group of people or larger groups of people on the verge of mass action, it has a way of becoming too insular and not about changing power but just about carving some out as your own.

–I get the feeling that everyone knows what an evil crock this is, and yet, it will continue on until the human rights abuses under it get so bad that even people with no vested interest in it cannot deny that that’s what’s happening.

And, frankly, that’s what makes me sick.  People are already having their babies snatched from them.  They’re already being separated from their children.  They’re already being raped by guards at Hutto.  They’re already dying in detention centers.  It is already so bad that it’s hard for a person to look at it or read about it and have her heart hold up.

And yet, that’s not been enough.

I am sore afraid to see what “enough” will look like.

2 thoughts on “The Difficulties in Fighting 287(g)

  1. It can get bad. The Misery Strategy is designed for this purpose. While the New York Times proclaims, “The American people cherish lawfulness but resist cruelty,” we amount of cruelty we can tolerate is apparently pretty high.

    This story joins the many that move the ticking Doomsday Clock forward.

  2. John, all I can say is that my grandparents came here as part of an earlier wave of unwelcome immigration, which was also responsible for the absolutely xenophobic immigration ‘reform’ laws of the 1920s. And that a couple of generations later, the people who tried to send them back home, and to keep out others like them, had learned to be ashamed of their reaction. So I think that, given time, USians do come around to doing the right thing. Not that that helps anyone now.

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