T.S. Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men" famously concludes, "This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang, but a whimper." Judging by media reports across the country, it appears that the federal government's agreement with local law enforcement that lets some immigration enforcement take place at a local level may also be concluding with a whimper.
Back on Feb. 8, the online Maryland community news site Gazette.com quoted Frederick County Sheriff Charles Jenkins on whether the controversial 287(g) program was being "softened" at the federal level:
“This is nothing more than national politics at work, a lot of smoke and mirrors,” Jenkins said. “[President Barack] Obama is pandering to the Latino community. I don’t think there will be wholesale change, and I don’t think [287(g)] will go away.”
But on Monday, Feb. 13, word spread in the immigration community that 287(g) was fading away. According to these reports, no new task force agreements will be made, the least effective agreements will end, and the rest of the agreements will be phased out and replaced by the new "Secure Communities" program.
If that's so, the response has been fairly muted. The Houston Chronicle had a story this week that Sheriff Adrian Garcia in Texas' Harris County is leading a "national fight to save 287(g) funding." If any other law enforcement official is joining in his fight, the effort hasn't made the news.
Then came this story over the weekend in USA Today:
Now, in their proposed budget for the upcoming year, Department of Homeland Security officials say they will not sign new contracts for 287(g) officers working in the field and will terminate the "least productive" of those agreements — saving an estimated $17 million. All the contracts between ICE and local police agencies run for three years, so that portion of the program could be finished by November when the last contract for field officers expires.
There are a couple of things that might explain the lack of public outcry. One, 287(g) has been extremely unpopular in the Latino community. People would rather not report crimes than risk that they or their loved ones come under increased scrutiny by the police. In spite of constant reassurances that no one immigrant community is being targeted, few have failed to notice that, even in cities with large non-Hispanic illegal immigrant communities, people aren't being arrested and sent back to Europe or Asia in any meaningful numbers.
Two, communities who think they need 287(g) can't always get it, while "Secure Communities" is already in the process of being implemented nationwide. I think most people would rather see a comprehensive program rather than one that is implemented in only a few towns.
I've heard nothing about any plans for Nashville's program to end. But if the USA Today story is accurate, that could happen in November. Considering the lawsuits and the inadvertent talks to white supremacist groups about how awesome the program is and the shackling of a pregnant woman during labor, one wonders if Nashville might not be relieved to see this ending with a whimper.