Law and Justice

Report Finds Dozens of Sheriffs

Partnering on Federal Immigration

Enforcement Have Records of

Racism, Abuse, and Violence

    WASHINGTON — (ACLU) - 4/30/2022 - The American Civil Liberties Union released a new research report today on Immigrations and Customs Enforcement's 287(g) program, which delegates federal immigration enforcement authority to local and state law enforcement agencies and which expanded five fold under the Trump administration. The report, License to Abuse, is the first in-depth and comprehensive review of the character and conduct of local 287(g) partners, primarily county sheriffs, both under the Biden administration and previous administrations.

    Researchers examined the 142 state and local law enforcement agencies, including sheriff’s offices and departments of corrections, participating in the 287(g) program and highlighted 54 agencies that are among the most egregious in their violations of people’s civil rights and liberties. Key findings presented in the report include:
  • 59 percent of participating sheriffs have records of anti-immigrant, xenophobic rhetoric, contributing to a continued climate of fear for immigrants and their families and undermining the administration’s racial equity, accountability, and anti-discrimination commitments. 
  • 55 percent of sheriffs involved in the program have made statements advocating for inhumane immigration and border enforcement policies and promoting the misinformation and false claims on which they are based. In some cases these sheriffs are actively seeking to defy federal authority in order to preserve the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant, anti-human rights legacy.
  • 65 percent of 287(g) participating agencies have records of a pattern of racial profiling and other civil rights violations, including excessive use of force.
  • 77 percent of participating sheriffs, local jail authorities and state department of corrections commi​​ssioners are running detention facilities with serious and extensive records of inhumane conditions, implicating the 287(g) program because when the federal government partners with these jails and prisons it tacitly sanctions these conditions.
    “Despite President Biden’s campaign pledge to eliminate 287(g) contracts initiated under the Trump administration, the Biden administration has so far only terminated one 287(g) agreement out of over 140,” said Naureen Shah, senior legislative counsel for the ACLU. “In continuing partnerships with sheriffs who have shameful and persistent records of civil rights violations, particularly against Black and Brown communities, President Biden is sending a message that he sanctions and approves of these abuses. The Biden administration is also undermining its own efforts to repair the harm inflicted by the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda as well as its promise to hold law enforcement accountable for violating the law. The Biden administration should immediately cease working with these agencies, whose conduct is antithetical to the Biden administration’s vision for the country.”

    The ACLU recommends the Biden administration end the 287 (g) program entirely. It should begin ending agreements with 54 participating state and local agencies identified by the ACLU as having particularly egregious records of racial profiling and other civil rights violations; records of poor jail or prison conditions and treatment of individuals in its custody; records of anti-immigrant, xenophobic statements; and records of advocating for inhumane immigration and border policies, with implications for whether they will seek to continue indiscriminate arrests and deportations.

    The full report is online here.

Law and Justice

Court Blocks Montana Laws 

that Restricts Native 

American Voting Rights

    BILLINGS, Mont. — (ACLU) - 4/13/2022 - A Montana court today blocked two state laws that hinder Native American participation in the state’s electoral process. 

    The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Montana, Native American Rights Fund (NARF), and Harvard Law School’s Election Law Clinic challenged the laws on behalf of two Native American voting rights organizations and four tribal nations. 

    The first measure, HB 176, would have ended Election Day registration, which Indigenous voters have relied upon to cast votes in Montana since 2006. The second, HB 530, would have blocked paid ballot collection. 

    Indigenous voters on rural reservations, where residential mail delivery is often limited or nonexistent, disproportionately rely on the service of ballot collectors to cast their votes. In 2020, a Montana court struck down a similar measure after listening to “cold, hard data” on its detrimental impact on the Native vote.

    The court today granted a preliminary injunction in Western Native Voice v. Jacobsen, which was filed on behalf of Western Native Voice and Montana Native Vote, Native American-led organizations focused on getting out the vote and increasing civic participation in the Native American community; and the Blackfeet Nation, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation, Fort Belknap Indian Community, and Northern Cheyenne Tribe. Western Native Voice has been consolidated with two similar cases brought by the Montana Democratic Party and Montana Youth Action. 

    The following reactions are from:  

    Alex Rate, Legal Director, ACLU of Montana: “Today is a good day for the voters of Montana, and for the sanctity of the Montana Constitution. This order reaffirms the principle that the right to vote must be preserved for all voters, and that laws targeting Indigenous voters cannot be supported by flimsy and unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.”

    Alora Thomas-Lundborg, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU Voting Rights Project: “The court correctly found that these laws likely violate many provisions of the Montana Constitution, including the right to vote, equal protection, free speech, and due process. This is an important victory. Montana politicians have tried and failed yet again to undermine Native American voters.”

    Jacqueline De León, Staff Attorney, NARF: “HB 176 and HB 530 are designed to take advantage of the lack of residential mail delivery, poor roads, and inequitable access to election services plaguing Native communities. Such laws are unconstitutional. No matter how many times Montana politicians try to pass laws restricting Native Americans, we will fight on behalf of tribes to ensure Native people’s right to vote in Montana is free and fair.” 

    Samantha Kelty, Staff Attorney, NARF: “This injunction ensures that legislation designed to limit who can participate in this democracy will not take effect in 2022, and we will continue to fight to ensure HB 176 and HB 530 never restrict Native people’s right to vote in Montana.” 

    Theresa Lee, Litigation Director & Clinical Instructor, Election Law Clinic Harvard Law School: “We are pleased the court stopped these laws from burdening all Montana voters, and particularly Native voters who face additional barriers to accessing the vote, and ultimately look forward to seeing these laws permanently blocked.”

    The lawsuit was filed in the Montana 13th Judicial District Court of Yellowstone County.


    Case details: