Refugee and immigrant activists recently met with Sheriff Helder to request he stop participating in non-mandatory immigration programs. The Department’s participation in these programs tears apart families and communities. President Trump has promised to use the "Secure Communities Program" and "287g," as tools to deport undocumented people. In August of 2016, Trump spoke highly of 287g and S-Comm, stating that they are "programs that worked," but were "recklessly gutted" by the Obama administration.
Despite the multiple harms caused by these programs, Sheriff Helder failed to respond to the letter which he received from various immigrant and refugee organizations. Some of the signatories met with him this week and the sheriff stated that the letter was that of a “bully,” which led to his refusal to respond, or even acknowledge receipt of the letter. He even called one young, Latina organizer a “bully” on two occasions, during the meeting.
The Sheriff's Misrepresentations
Sheriff Helder suggested two inaccurate pieces of information. First, he claimed credit for ending his participation in part of 287g, a part which allowed local police to determine an individual’s immigration status. Despite Sheriff Helder’s claims, it was President Obama who terminated that portion of the program. Helder also stated that he is actually protecting immigrants by participating in these programs. He claims that the Department’s participation will stop ICE from conducting workplace raids and otherwise actively searching for immigrants. Helder’s claims are unsupported, with the following evidence. First, ICE can still conduct workplace raids, and ICE has in fact raided work places during the Department’s participation in the programs. Secondly, ICE has limited resources, and programs like S-Comm and 287g save them time and money, as local law enforcement bears the burden of detaining immigrants. S-Comm and 287g make it easier for ICE to deport immigrants, while placing more of a burden on local law enforcement agencies. In this case, Sheriff Helder's jail makes it easy for ICE to deport NWA residents.
Still Hoping Helder Will Do Better
While Sheriff Helder disappointed us by calling concerned constituents “bullies” and making inaccurate claims, it was not as disappointing as his commitment to imprisoning immigrants for ICE to deport them. We hope that he will welcome constituent concerns in the future, and that he will discontinue participation in these programs immediately.