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Study: Immigration program leads to profiling

Posted February 18, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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— The federal program that allows local law enforcement to identify illegal immigrants charged with crimes has created a climate of racial profiling, according to a report released Wednesday by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law.

The 287(g) immigration program, administered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, gives local law enforcement agencies access to federal immigration databases so they can identify illegal immigrants they have arrested on local charges.

Sheriff disputes claim of racial profiling

Wake, Cumberland, Alamance and five other counties already participate in the program, and last year, more than 3,000 illegal immigrants were deported from North Carolina. According to the report, most were not violent criminals.

"We know there have been checkpoints set up outside Latino churches, checkpoints outside Latino markets," said Deborah Weissman, director of clinical programs at UNC's School of Law.

In Wake County, more than 1,200 people have been identified through the program, which started last July, Sheriff Donnie Harrison has said.

Harrison said he disputes the study's findings allegations and that there is no racial profiling in Wake County.

"We're not profiling anybody. I mean, they're welcome to check any paperwork we have," Harrison said. "They have introduced themselves to us by committing a crime, doesn't make a difference how small it is."

The authors admit they have no hard data or concrete evidence to prove racial proviling takes place and that their study is based on anecdotal reports.

The 152-page report also says the "unexpected and problematic outcomes" of the program is reluctance among illegal immigrants to contact police if they are witnesses to or victims of crime because of the risk of being jailed or deported.

"We found serious erosion of community trust, as well as legal concerns," Weissman said.

When it passed in 1996, the 287(g) program was designed to target terrorists and violent criminals. Based on the UNC study, the program is not being used for its intended purpose.

"The overwhelming number of individuals arrested pursuant to 287(g) and removed pursuant to this program have been arrested for traffic offenses, often driving without a driver's license," Weissman said.

The report does list recommendations to improve the program, one of which is to process only convicted felons.

It also says comprehensive immigration reform is needed on the federal level. They say immigration is not the business of local agencies.
Harrison responds, saying that robbing a bank is a federal offense but that doesn't stop him from arresting bank robbers.

"Are we supposed to turn our heads, just because a person violates the law and doesn't have any ID?" Harrison said. "Are we supposed to pat them on the back and say, 'Don't do that again?' I don't think so."

The authors, however, believe stereotyping and racial play a role in who gets arrested.

"If we're doing something wrong, we'd like to see it," Harrison said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • stonky Feb 20, 2009

    So Be it.

  • didisaythat Feb 20, 2009

    This is so rediculous. The study admits they have no proof, just anecdotal reports. That sums up a defense lawyer right there. I love UNC basketball, but Chapel Hill is out of control.

  • kimmyrn6 Feb 20, 2009

    In my opinion, it is impossible to consider this "racial profiling." Why? Illegal immigrants are just that-ILLEGAL! The only thing that makes it look like racial profiling is the fact that the population of Mexican illegal immigrants is SO LARGE. Deporting CRIMINALS (read people who ARE BREAKING THE LAW) is not only legal, but necessary. This country can't pay it's OWN bills, why should we have to take on this additional economic load because the liberals think it is "social injustice" that we don't just let them all in to break down our infrastructure and economy. Get real people!

  • oldfirehorse Feb 20, 2009

    "The authors admit they have no hard data or concrete evidence to prove racial proviling takes place and that their study is based on anecdotal reports." --- Let's see if I got this right. The "authors" spent piles of money and time, studying an issue, and making a report that is not supported by any "hard data" or any "concrete evidence" and is based purely on "anecdotal reports"? Hmmmm....let's see, so if I wanted to report on, say, innocent victims of the criminal justice system, I should go to a prison and ask the convicts if they are guilty of the crime they were convicted of? I'm sure that makes sense to somebody!

  • XLAW Feb 19, 2009

    Last night in a segment on the UNC Law report on the 287(g) program the cover was shown and lo and behold, whose logo was present. One guess. You're right. The ACLU! Was this funded by them? Is the report biased? Is there a viewpoint? Why has the media presented news of this report as if it were an independent investigation by an unbiased law school?

  • Question Feb 19, 2009

    Good point atozca
    Bottom line, if you're looking for illegals, how many blue-eyed blondes do you need to check? I'm sorry, but if the shoe fits...

  • shep8851 Feb 19, 2009

    Excuse me--but if you have a very significant number of people, who all exhibit the same basic characteristics, being arrested for criminal activity--at some point law enforcement is going to be looking for that kind/type of person. That is not profiling. Its good, common sense.

  • CrewMax Feb 19, 2009

    Like, profiling is a bad thing? Should Gazelles not fear all cheetahs? Even the non-hungry ones?

  • atozca Feb 19, 2009

    "The authors admit they have no hard data or concrete evidence to prove racial proviling takes place and that their study is based on anecdotal reports"

    UH? How did we get the title to our article then? This report has no validity. I'm glad I like in Wake Country where our Sheriff is not affraid to do the right thing!

  • tiredofgovtwaste Feb 19, 2009

    its been determined that "the annual fiscal burden on North Carolina taxpayers from illegal immigration is more than $1.3 billion. That equates to an annual cost of about $388 per native-born headed household. In addition, there is a cost to the state’s economy of another $1.2 billion from remittances sent abroad." For this amount of money i am in favor of whatever means that can be employed to rid our state of those who are here illegally. It time that we start taking care of Americans who have a right to be here and are legal. If the liberals in Orange County and Raleigh want these folks to stay, tax them and leave the rest of us alone.