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immmigration debates are popping up all over the country wochit

mayor greg stanton said last week that phoenix wouldn't join president trump's 287(g) programs, which train local police officers to perform some federal immigration-enforcement duties.

but then he said the city would continue to abide by senate bill 1070, the state's immigration law that requires officers to make a "reasonable attempt" to determine a person's immigration status when there's reasonable suspicion that he or she is here illegally.

how could stanton be for one and not the other?

i get that there's a lot of fear about the president's recent executive order reviving parts of 287(g). trump says he wants to expand deportations beyond the obama administration's focus on people convicted of serious crimes, like murder and ault, to anyone charged with any crime. that's certainly a wider net.

but 287(g) isn't inherently evil. actually, in mesa's experience, the program has been rather ... uneventful.

how 287(g) works

ice officers arrest a convicted felon at her mesa home

ice officers arrest a convicted felon at her mesa home in this 2004 file p o. an immigration judge had ordered her deported in 1990.

 (p o: the republic)

so, here's the deal: 287(g) is named after a section of the u.s. immigration and nationality act that allows local law enforcement to perform some duties of federal immigration officers. originally, there were two kinds of agreements: one that trained officers on the street to determine immigration status during an arrest and another that trained detention officers to do the same in jails.

the obama administration eventually killed agreements with officers on the street but kept the program in jails. (trump wants to revive agreements with officers on the street.)

thirty-seven departments nationwide, including four in arizona, have jail-enforcement agreements. mesa, which joined the program in 2009, is currently the only department in maricopa county with one.

its agreement works like this: detention officers are given intensive training and regular refresher courses on how to question those arrested on other crimes about their legal status. they also are given the power to take fingerprints, collect evidence and begin filling out the paperwork to transfer those here illegally to federal custody (but only if ice requests the transfer).

that's not unreasonable. detention officers already are tasked with identifying and processing those who are arrested.

how that's played out in mesa

and, no, it has not led to a rash of deportations. far from it.

according to department statistics, mesa contacted ice about 28 people in fiscal 2015; ice requested two to be transferred to their custody. in fiscal 2016, ice requested seven of the 20 people mesa notified them about.

this out of the thousands of suspects who move through the city's holding facility each year.

granted, mesa only processes those charged with misdemeanors; those charged with felonies go to the county jail, where ice officers check their status.

and yes, it's possible that the trump administration could suddenly want all of the undocumented immigrants mesa identifies. but even still, that's a tiny fraction of the people the department arrests.

i know. there's a lot of fear based on trump's immigration rhetoric, which has been over the top. it's tempting to dismiss 287(g) outright, simply because the president mentioned it in an executive order.

but it's hard to say the jail portion of the program isn't at least worth considering, particularly in a department that already follows state law on checking immigration status.

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