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Polarizing police program both lauded, condemned in Knox County

One prominent advocate of a law enforcement program that targets illegal immigrants lauds its alleged upsides, which he says include the positive results it will bring by lessening overcrowded jails and reducing outlays that local governments spend in crime-fighting efforts.

A spokesperson for a Tennessee immigrant and refugee rights groups views it as something else altogether, calling it a “disastrous program” that will erode the public’s trust in law enforcement and instill even greater fear in a demographic that already feels under siege.

The controversial and clearly polarizing program is a joint initiative between federal U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local law enforcement agencies termed the 287(g) program.

In a nutshell, 287(g) provides that local law enforcers can readily stand in for ICE agents in deportation-related investigations and attendant matters following their receipt of specialized training. The federal government antes up the money for the program.

In Tennessee, Knox County alone is currently approved for participation in 287(g), with enforcement being overseen by and directed from the county’s Sheriff’s Office.

The city of Knoxville will not participate, with its mayor citing material concerns with the program, including “confusion and fear” that it will engender in the community.

The overtly expressed fears of immigrant communities across the country concerning ICE and with deportation efforts in particular have been well documented. One media report states that the 287(g) program “has garnered national attention for the number of undocumented immigrants ensnared for minor offenses.” There is associated stress, too, with racial profiling, due process violations under the Constitution and police actions that spur roundups and separate families.

The ICE/Knox County participation agreement is scheduled to expire on June 30, 2019. There are presently 45 287(g) agreements operative nationally.