Op-Ed (Baltimore Sun): Federal program in Frederick County stokes fear of — and in — undocumented immigrants

Viviana Westbrook, a CLINIC state and local advocacy attorney, authored this op-ed in response to a Frederick County, Md., sheriff and other members of a steering committee giving a one-sided presentation on a program that uses county deputies to enforce federal civil immigration laws. The presentation furthered fearmongering stereotypes of immigrants as criminals and did not allow for live public comment.

An excerpt from the op-ed:

Because of 287(g), members of the community fear any contact with police, and families are being torn apart. Immigrants do not feel safe contacting the police when they are victims of crime. True community safety requires equal access to justice for everyone to seek help when they need it, regardless of their immigration status. It is about building bridges and acknowledging that our individual well-being depends on the well-being of everyone around us.

The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office may brag about putting “criminals” in the deportation pipeline, but this program ensnares mothers, fathers and even children who are beloved members of our communities. The office sells us a false narrative of fear in order to profit from the incarceration of moms and dads.

There is a growing movement of people who reject Sheriff Jenkins’ position. They see the 287(g) program for what it is: an attack on people who fled unspeakable violence and extreme poverty just to come here, work hard and raise strong families. I’m here to say that as a Catholic and as an attorney, the 287(g) program in Frederick County undermines both faith-based values and the social contract we have with each other. The program must end.

This piece was originally published with the Baltimore Sun. Read it here.