Groups protest sheriff’s request for immigration taskforce
Marching down Ribaut Road toward the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office as others rallied near Old Town Bluffton, dozens of people protested Sheriff P.J. Tanner’s request that the Department of Homeland Security reinstate a taskforce dedicated to enforcing federal immigration laws.
Tanner wants to commit five deputies as part of the 287(g) program, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement initiative that allows state or local law enforcement to receive authority for immigration enforcement in their jurisdictions.
About 50 people chanted “local cops, local jobs” and “do your job” in front of the Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday in Beaufort. Handwritten notes were collected to be given to Tanner, said Alison Davidow, leader of the Beaufort Indivisible group.
Another crowd from Lowcountry Indivisible protested near the post office and library at Bluffton Village.
“We hope (Tanner) rethinks it. Our next step is to appeal to Homeland Security. It was a failure in Arizona and it was so limited in South Carolina,” Davidow said of the program.
“Only three (other) counties were part of it and it wasn’t a very well-received program. We’re going to be the ones who pay for the overtime of the officers and supporting other costs to implement it, not the federal government.”
The 287(g) program was created under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. The Sheriff’s Office implemented an immigration taskforce in 2007 before it was terminated in 2013.
Capt. Bob Bromage said reinstating the program would enable the Sheriff’s Office to address immigration issues on a local level and have access to an “ICE computer system to timely and properly identify suspects in criminal investigations.”
Bromage said implementing the program would not cost any extra tax dollars.
But the Indivisible groups are concerned the program will harm relationships with the community.
“The trust between law enforcement and the minority community was damaged. The concept of a taskforce, to, among other activities, act upon tips from ICE, as the sheriff put it, is not an encouraging one,” Davidow said.
“We are protesting the concept of local law enforcement on such a divisive program, to protest the use of scarce human and financial resources to implement this program. And to assure our minority neighbors, regardless of ethnicity, that we, as a nation of immigrants, appreciate their presence and share their love for this country.”
Marilyn Martino said she attended the protest because too many people will be affected if the taskforce is reinstated.
“My thought is that we are in uncharted territory with the president, and we need to show up so that local leaders can hear the voice of the people,” Martino said.
Sue Fritts said the 287(g) program is flawed and allows racial profiling.
“It was studied and deemed to be flawed. It wasn’t doing what it intended to do. It will waste taxpayers’ dollars and encourage racial profiling,” Fritts said.
Kate Joy said the Sheriff’s Office already has the authority to go “after the bad guys” and the program would “go after those who are not doing anything wrong, and are people who are looking for a better life.”