This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) that would have eliminated federal funding for a program (known as “287(g)” in which the federal government deputizes local law enforcement officers to identify and detain undocumented immigrants. This amendment was offered to legislation authorizing annual funding for Homeland Security Department programs.
Polis urged support for his amendment: “This program effectively adds responsibilities, which should be federal responsibilities, to local law enforcement so that they effectively engage in federal immigration enforcement. So instead of keeping serious criminals from threatening our communities, the 287(g) program forces police to waste their time trying to figure out the immigration status of noncriminals, as well as opening them up to charges of racial profiling which can be expensive to defend….These programs force local law enforcement officers to follow and enforce federal laws even though they are not trained to do so.”
Polis pointed to Maricopa County, where local sheriff Joe Arapio used the 287(g) program to engage in racial profiling. (Arapio was under investigation by the Justice Department for abuse of power and civil rights violations.) Polis argued: “I would like to show the detrimental effect of the 287(g) program. You can see across Arizona, statewide, incidents of violent crime went down 12 percent in the last 10 years. But they have one particular sheriff who does a particularly bad job of protecting his community. His name is Sheriff Arpaio. He is one of the notorious abusers of the 287(g) program. In his community, Maricopa County, crime went up 58 percent. So you have a 12 percent decrease, and then you have this incompetent sheriff who has a 58 percent increase. Now he might be incompetent in other areas as well, but one of the main reasons crime has gone up in Maricopa County is because he has diverted law enforcement resources to try to enforce federal laws that we in this body are irresponsibly ignoring day in and day out and that this [underlying Homeland Security] bill does nothing to fix.”
Rep. John Carter (R-TX) opposed the amendment: “I happen to be from the state that has more of the Mexican border than any other State in the union. We are very familiar with that border. We have been living with it for our entire lives, and for the life of our State, from before the time when it was a state when it was a republic….This is a good program. It is a program that has effectively trained law enforcement to understand the rules that federal agents have to play by, and still gives them the authority to assist people who need their assistance. I would argue that the safest part of the Texas border… where local law enforcement has joined with federal law enforcement to enforce the laws of this land. I think anything short of that is leaving resources on the table that will protect the United States of America….So I very much oppose this gentleman's amendment, and I very much hope that our colleagues will realize that we need every resource available, and in my opinion even troops, to protect the American border and make sure Americans citizens and their property and their lives are safe.”
The House rejected this amendment by a vote of 107-313. Voting “yea” were 107 Democrats, including a majority of progressives. 232 Republicans and 81 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have eliminated federal funding for a program in which the federal government deputizes local law enforcement officers to identify and detain undocumented immigrants.