The results of the audit of the 287(g) program were published July 17 and the headline “Audit: Program costs sheriff’s office no more than $21,400 annually” seemed designed to make it seem like the program is a good thing for Frederick.
The reality is that it is costing taxpayers only $21,400 extra, assuming normal overtime. Or $79,041 assuming overtime is primarily due to ICE training. But that’s not the real story.
The 287(g) program costs money to operate. But the idea is that those expenses are offset by monies paid for each person detained. In order to make money, you need to detain people. This means stopping anyone who is a person of color and making them prove that they are citizens. Basic harassment.
On a typical day, the Frederick County Detention Center holds 51 undocumented immigrants who earn the county more than $4,000 a day from their cells. Eighty percent were detained for nonviolent and minor offenses, mostly minor traffic violations.
How many people were stopped and harassed in order to get those 51? And what happens if you harass the wrong person? They can sue you. Frederick has already had to pay a large settlement for exactly that in the case of Roxana Orellana Santos, who was arrested for eating lunch at her place of work.
This is not a singular event. There are other cases in the works that could cost much more. Our sheriff thinks this program is good for our community. It certainly fits in with his views. Since his election, Jenkins has spoken at “Take America Back” rallies and Tea Party events, and traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border with funds from the ultra-right anti-immigration group FAIR.
However, data shows that this program makes communities much more unsafe. People become afraid to come forward and help the police when real crimes have happened because of the fear of profiling and harassment. So, bigger crimes go unpunished. It can also be a huge liability for communities where overeager policing leads to large settlements.
Should we be doing a happy dance because we are not paying as much in extra taxes as we thought? I, for one, am just saddened that this is how we choose to spend our tax money and I’m concerned about the cost of settlements and the need to harass our citizenry in order to avoid losing even more money.