2009 Press Releases

Press Release

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

For Immediate Release

New Study Finds Local Enforcement of Immigration Laws Led to Racial Profiling

Contact:
Susan Gluss, 510.642.6936 sgluss@law.berkeley.edu

Berkeley, CA—September 16, 2009… A Hispanic community in a small southern city that lived in fear of police after a spike in arrests now has evidence that it was unjustly targeted to enforce federal immigration laws. A new analysis of arrest data shows that police in Irving, Texas arrested Hispanics in far greater numbers for petty offenses as part of a federal Criminal Alien Program (CAP) to deport serious offenders. During the most aggressive period, when police had round-the-clock access to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, the number of Hispanic arrests for minor crimes increased by nearly 150 percent.

The new report, “The CAP Effect: Racial Profiling in the ICE Criminal Alien Program,” was released today by the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity (Warren Institute) at UC Berkeley School of Law (Berkeley Law).

“It was clearly a fishing expedition. Police cast a wide net to arrest anyone who looked Hispanic for any minor violation,” said report co-author Aarti Kohli, immigration policy expert at Berkeley Law’s Warren Institute. “The Hispanic community suspected racial profiling as the root cause of the increase in arrests. Our report backs that up.”

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement plans to spend more than $1 billion to expand efforts nationwide to deport criminal aliens through CAP and its related programs, including Secure Communities and Fugitive Operations.

“What we see in Irving is representative of the complaints we hear from communities nationwide,” said Janet Murguia, president and CEO of National Council of La Raza. “Instead of removing dangerous criminals from communities, such practices seem to engender a disturbing pattern of arresting as many Hispanics as possible,” she said.

The CAP Effect identifies three phases of the local-federal CAP partnership. It analyzes police data of arrests, detention, and immigration referrals during a 23-month period (January 2006—November 2007) before and after Irving adopted the Criminal Alien Program.

During the first phase, from September 2006 to March 2007, immigration officials began to visit the Irving jail up to five times per week to review arrests and to make final custody and deportation decisions.

During the second phase, from April to September 2007, the criminal program shifted from periodic, in-person consultation with federal immigration enforcement officers to 24-7 availability via phone and video teleconference. Racial profiling was most aggressive at this time, according to the report. Irving police arrested Hispanics for misdemeanors in significantly higher numbers compared with Whites and African-Americans. In April 2007, 102 Hispanics were arrested for petty offenses, but in September 2007, 246 Hispanics were arrested—a nearly 150 percent increase.

The jump in Hispanic arrests was especially steep for minor traffic offenses, where police officers have a lot of discretion in determining whether someone should be arrested. The data show that Hispanic traffic arrests stood at 48 in April of 2007. In July, just three months later, police arrested 155 Hispanics for traffic offenses—a 223 percent increase.

The report reveals that the majority of Hispanics arrested after the implementation of the CAP program were lawfully present in the United States.

By November of 2007, Irving CAP was scaled back as complaints of racial profiling of Hispanics intensified. Local community groups complained that Irving police stopped and arrested Hispanic residents for Class-C misdemeanor offenses, such as public intoxication and minor traffic violations, and alleged that these charges served as a pretext, allowing officers to probe citizenship and immigration status. However, on January 20, 2008, ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok admitted to a Dallas newspaper that ICE was still processing petty offenders for deportation and would continue to do so indefinitely.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas obtained the police data through a public records request that included Hispanic, White, and African-American arrest records. The data offers the first-ever opportunity to assess the impact of local police participation in immigration enforcement—historically the role of the federal government.

The goal of the Criminal Alien Program is to improve community safety by targeting serious criminals for deportation, according to ICE, but the police data show that only two percent of those detained by immigration authorities in a fourteen-month time period received felony charges. In sum, the data show that CAP is not only failing to target serious criminal offenders, but it’s also tacitly encouraging local police to arrest Hispanic residents for petty offenses.

“We are expanding federal immigration programs that without proper supervision lead to harassment and civil rights violations,” said Maria Blanco, executive director of Berkeley Law’s Warren Institute. “Given the administration’s continued expansion of federal and local law enforcement partnerships, we need to be even more vigilant in protecting citizens’ rights and preventing racial profiling.”

The report’s authors recommend a number of steps for Congress to take before implementing the Criminal Alien Program nationwide, which include:

  • investigating the impact of local partnerships with immigration enforcement before allocating additional funds to expand the program;
  • prohibiting criminal alien screenings for individuals arrested for petty offenses;
  • mandating that local police who partner with federal immigration authorities record arrest data by race, ethnicity, and level of offense.

For more details about the study, contact Aarti Kohli, immigration policy director, Warren Institute, 510.642.0383 akohli@law.berkeley.edu. To read a copy of the report, go to: http://www.law.berkeley.edu/files/policybrief_irving_FINAL.pdf


The Warren Institute at Berkeley Law is a multidisciplinary venture focused on producing research, policy recommendations, and consensus-building activities that engage challenging topics in civil rights, and race and ethnicity in America. Its goal is to provide valuable intellectual capital to public and private sector leaders, the media and the public, while advancing scholarly understanding.  For more information, please go to http://www.warreninstitute.org.

University of California, Berkeley, School of Law

For over a century, Berkeley Law has prepared lawyers to be skilled and ethical problem-solvers. The law school’s curriculum—one of the most comprehensive and innovative in the nation—offers its J.D. and advanced degree candidates a broad array of nearly 200 courses. Students collaborate with leading scholars and practitioners working on complex issues at more than a dozen interdisciplinary centers, institutes, and clinical programs within its Boalt Hall complex. For more information, visit http://www.law.berkeley.edu/