ACLU-TN Finds New MOA to Govern Sheriff's 287(g) Program Worsens Existing Agreement

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
July 24, 2009 12:00 am

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Nashville – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN) today released its critique of the new standardized memorandum of agreement (MOA) issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that will guide the Davidson County Sheriff Office’s (DCSO) 287(g) program, concluding that the new agreement does not make any meaningful changes from the old agreement and creates additional concerns.

On July 10, DHS announced that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had standardized the MOA used to enter into 287(g) partnerships in an attempt to respond to civil liberties and immigrant rights advocates who have raised serious concerns about the programs since they were first implemented in 2007.

287(g) programs provide for the delegation of immigration enforcement authority in certain circumstances to specific local and state law enforcement agencies. Currently in Tennessee, ICE has 287(g) agreements with the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office and the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Previously, MOAs between ICE and local law enforcement varied by jurisdiction, but the new standardized MOA will now govern all 287(g) programs.

In a comparison of the new standardized MOA to the MOA that ICE signed with the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office in February 2007, ACLU-TN found that the new MOA would do little or nothing to correct the serious civil liberties and civil rights concerns in the old agreement.

According to ACLU-TN Executive Director Hedy Weinberg, “The cosmetic changes to the MOA do nothing to change the inherent problems with the program. These fundamentally flawed programs undermine public safety by exacerbating fear in communities already distrustful of law enforcement, challenge the constitutional guarantees of fair treatment and due process, and encourage racial and ethnic profiling.”

“In addition, ” Weinberg said, “one of the most egregious changes in the new MOA removes 287(g) documents from public scrutiny by subjecting even state or local records to ICE control and claiming that documents related to the 287(g) program are no longer public records.”

“ACLU-TN’s detailed comparison of the new standardized MOA with the current Davidson County’s Sheriff Office’s MOA shows that aspects of the new MOA are clearly a step in the wrong direction and a number of the improvements DHS claims are simply untrue,” said ACLU-TN Staff Attorney Tricia Herzfeld.

Herzfeld said, “The new MOA expands the list of powers granted to law enforcement personnel without providing additional training, simultaneously reducing accountability through the exclusion of civilian personnel from program reviews. It also reduces the amount of experience that a local law enforcement officer needs to become MOA-designated; decreases the already-low data collection and tracking requirements under the old agreement; and authorizes processing of people who have been arrested for misdemeanors such as driving or fishing without a license.”

Before DCSO can modify its MOA and adopt the new language, the Metro Nashville Davidson Council is required to approve a resolution to amend the original agreement.

ACLU-TN will urge the Council members to reconsider their earlier support.

The new standardized MOA, original Davidson County Sheriff Office’s MOA, and the ACLU-TN side-by-side comparison of the two can be found at

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