US sheriffs target immigrants
COUNTY sheriffs in the US are increasingly being recruited to the organised anti-immigrant movement and fringe nationalist groups in a bid to implement a dangerous agenda that breaks up families, deports people to their deaths and punishes survivors of domestic violence, a report released this week has revealed.
Titled “Crossing the Line”, the report from the Centre for New Community details how county sheriffs have increasingly integrated with the US far right, often becoming leading national voices advocating tough anti-immigrant measures and programmes entangling local criminal law enforcement with federal civil immigration enforcement – such as Arizona’s “show me your papers” law, SB1070, and the “polimigra” 287(g) programme.
“Over the past five years, anti-immigrant groups have taken their vitriol directly to law enforcement officials, particularly sheriffs, who can expand the boundaries of mass deportation with little oversight,” said CNC advocacy director Lindsay Schubiner.
“Sheriffs who publicly ally with extremist anti-immigrant groups are aligning themselves with forces that target immigrants and communities of colour, promote unconstitutional detention practices, and support racial profiling.”
In exchange for affiliating with right-wing anti-immigrant groups and ingratiating themselves within far-right circles, the sheriffs gain access to a national audience through anti-immigrant radio and television shows, funded trips to conferences and meetings hosted by the groups, and federal funding for county sheriff ’s departments for detaining immigrants.
The report also fleshes out how county sheriffs and local police with no immigration enforcement authority often take matters into their own hands, targeting vulnerable refugee communities for harassment and the discretionary enforcement of laws within their mandate – such as traffic laws and minor criminal laws – for the purpose of supplementing federal immigration enforcement.
“We’ve been looking at the increasing radicalisation of county sheriffs for a number of years,” Ryan Lenz, a senior investigative reporter at the Southern Poverty Law Centre, said.
“The idea that sheriffs are ultimate arbiters of the law is part of a long tradition of right-wing thought.”