US Sheriffs Collaborate with Anti-Immigrant Hate Groups

A new report shows how anti-immigrant groups are recruiting county sheriffs, who can expand mass deportation boundaries with little oversight.

County sheriffs in the U.S. are increasingly being recruited to the organized anti-immigrant movement and fringe nationalist groups in a bid to implement a dangerous agenda that breaks up families, deports people to their deaths and punishes survivors of domestic violence, a new report released Tuesday has revealed.

Titled “Crossing the Line,” the report from the Center for New Community details how county sheriffs have increasingly integrated with the U.S. far right, often becoming leading national voices advocating tough anti-immigrant measures and programs entangling local criminal law enforcement with federal civil immigration enforcement — such as Arizona’s “show me your papers” law, SB1070, and the “polimigra” 287(g) program.

“Over the past five years, anti-immigrant groups have taken their vitriol directly to law enforcement officials, particularly sheriffs, who can expand the boundaries of mass deportation with little oversight,” CNC Advocacy Director Lindsay Schubiner said in a press call Tuesday.

“Sheriffs who publicly ally with extremist anti-immigrant groups are aligning themselves with forces that target immigrants and communities of color, promote unconstitutional detention practices, and support racial profiling,”

In exchange for affiliating with right-wing anti-immigrant groups and ingratiating themselves within far-right circles, the sheriffs gain access to a national audience through anti-immigrant radio and television shows, funded trips to conferences and meetings hosted by the groups, and federal funding for county sheriff’s departments for detaining immigrants.

The report also fleshes out how county sheriffs and local police with no immigration enforcement authority often take matters into their own hands, targeting vulnerable migrant communities for harassment and the discretionary enforcement of laws within their mandate — such as traffic laws and minor criminal laws — for the purpose of supplementing federal immigration enforcement.

“We’ve been looking at the increasing radicalization of county sheriffs for a number of years,” Ryan Lenz, a senior investigative reporter at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said. “The idea that sheriffs are ultimate arbiters of the law is part of a long tradition of right wing thought.”

The three main anti-immigrant groups discussed in the report — NumbersUSA, the Federation for American Immigration Reform FAIR, and think-tank offshoot the Center for Immigration Studies — are each based in Washington, D.C., and were founded either directly or indirectly by white nationalist and proponent John Tanton. In 1993, the population control-obsessed Tanton argued that a “European-American majority” was needed “for European-American society and culture to persist” — a posture which posits immigrants as a threat.

“The current leaders of FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA downplay the significance of Tanton’s stewardship, but continue to advocate for extreme measures that marginalize immigrant communities and encourage devastating attrition through enforcement policies,” the report notes. “Such policies have the goal of making life so unstable and dangerous for immigrants that they are forced to leave the country.”

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