Sweetwater County Sheriff Says ACLU Criticism Of Dept Is ‘Political Propaganda’

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Ellen@cowboystatedaily.com

The Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Department is not pleased with an immigration and racism report issued by the Wyoming chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the department’s spokesman told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

Deputy Jason Mower said the “License to Abuse” report sent to media outlets on Wednesday afternoon was “spurious at best.”

“If you read that report, it becomes clear to me the motive behind the report is political,” Mower said. “Their conclusion, before they even wrote the first word, is that the 287(g) program should be abolished and it’s a relic of Republican racism.”

In the report, researchers examined the 142 state and local law enforcement agencies 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, according to the ACLU.

The 287(g) program is run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and allows state and local officers to act in the identification, arrest and service of warrants and detainers of incarcerated foreign-born people with criminal charges or convictions.

The ACLU researchers said more than half of the participating sheriffs have records of anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric while contributing to a climate of fear for immigrants and the majority of the departments had records of racial profiling patterns.

Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Department was the only Wyoming agency named in the report, as it is the only one that officially has partnered with ICE for this program. Mower said the department receives federal funding for its participation in the program.

ACLU Wyoming spokeswoman Janna Farley said in a message to media outlets on Wednesday that the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Department was one of the 54 worst offending agencies listed in the report, but it was not specifically named as part of this group.

The department is mentioned in the report, in the appendix, where it is listed as one of the agencies that participate in the 287(g) program.

“To my knowledge, we’ve never had the ACLU request to come physically take a tour of the facility or interview any of us,” Mower said. “In the methodology section, you can see they rely on public records requests and keyword searches on Google.”

Mower said he has reached out to Farley regarding the misinformation she released to the media, but had not heard back from her or anyone at ACLU Wyoming as of Thursday afternoon.

Farley told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that the organization’s review was a starting point, but not a sufficient basis for understanding the entirety of the 287(g) program or all of its agreements.

“The 287(g) program create a culture of division and suspicion that doesn’t serve anyone – least of all the community these departments are supposed to protect,” Farley said.

Mower said he and the rest of the department officials would not be losing sleep over the report.

“This report and the way it was issued is not how we do things in Sweetwater County or Wyoming, at large,” he said. “I think it’s political propaganda and I think it’s sad because we’re in the middle of an election cycle.”

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