John Jay Research Blog

The Office for the Advancement of Research, as part of our Public Scholarship Initiative, actively solicits blog entries from John Jay faculty, staff, and external scholars working on issues of key contemporary and historical significance. We promote these entries on social media, including Facebook and Twitter, as well as within the university through a partnership with our Marketing and Development Office. If you wish to contribute an entry, please contact Director of Research Operations Daniel Stageman at dstageman@jjay.cuny.edu with a brief (1-2 sentence) summary of your proposed entry.

John Jay Scholars on the News: What Makes for Smarter Gun Policy?

John Jay Scholars on the News looks at tough issues through the lens of the research our scholars are producing, and informs the way we think about important debates and the role of public scholarship and evaluation. This post was originally published on March 19, 2018.

 

Following the mass shooting that killed 17 and injured even more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida – just the latest high-profile incidence of gun violence in the United States – the conversation in Washington has focused heavily on gun policy. Thanks in large measure to the efforts and activism of MSDHS students since the attack, the issue has remained at the top of the national agenda. On March 14, students from schools around the country walked out of classes to protest widespread gun violence, and protests have taken to the Capitol and state houses to ask for change.

We spoke to scholars and practitioners at John Jay College to ask for their thoughts about what feels like a significant moment in the public discourse on gun policy, and asked how best to move forward.

How does this moment in the national conversation about gun control feel different? Why do you think the response to the Parkland shooting has been so different from previous events? Do you believe the Never Again movement has the potential to make real change? 

Christopher Herrmann (Assistant Professor, Law and Police Science): There is certainly a different ‘feel’ about the gun control debate after the Parkland shooting.

Sung-suk Violet Yu (Associate Professor, Criminal Justice): The Never Again organizers are very active. The movement has gained traction, I think, because it is high school students leading it. They are not too helpless (like the young children at Sandy Hook), but also are not jaded, and they have few opponents. They are soon-to-be voters and a soon-to-be major consumer group, whose political views and spending habits are flexible and can be changed, making them a force to be reckoned with. They challenge mindsets and business-as-usual attitudes of politicians and big companies alike.
The organizers are also passionate, and savvy about social networks, and their message resonates with many because the organizers experienced the carnage of school shootings firsthand, and we have all witnessed such tragedies too many times.

Doug Evans (Senior Investigator, Research and Evaluation Center): Emotional appeals hit hard when they come from people who have lived through a difficult experience, and even harder when they come from kids. The high school survivors are motivated and have a platform to address the masses, and people are listening because they can relate, either because they are in high school or are a teenager, or because they have kids of their own. I think the Never Again movement will make real change, but it will be gradual. As more and more young people become involved and realize the collective influence they can have over elections, elected officials will have no choice but to adjust their campaigns to appeal to a younger voting demographic.

Christopher Herrmann: The Never Again movement has already managed to keep an ongoing dialogue on current gun politics and organized nationwide student walkouts, and soon there will be the National March for Our Lives on March 24th in Washington, DC. The question remains if these tactics will contribute to measurable change in the future. So far I think the biggest accomplishment the movement can take credit for is the recent gun bill passed into law in Florida (Senate Bill 7026, also known as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act). While it didn’t accomplish all the gun control measures that were requested, the fact that students and supporters were able to make substantial legislative changes to Florida’s gun laws within three weeks in one of the most pro-gun state legislatures is momentous and noteworthy.

What issues are we losing sight of or glossing over when we talk about mass shootings? How do we take a broader view of gun violence when mass shootings in schools are dominating the news cycle? 

Doug Evans: This cannot be stated enough: the NRA has an annual budget of a quarter billion dollars, and often uses an extreme argument (the government wants to take your guns and, ultimately, your rights) in response to reasonable arguments (restricting who can own guns and automatic firearms to prevent mass shootings). Coming to a consensus about the purpose of weapons that can fire ten or more rounds per second and deciding who, if anyone, should have access to these weapons that are capable of causing mass casualties, requires us to take a broader view.

Christopher Herrmann: Using 2015 data from the mass shooting tracker website massshootingtracker.org, we see there were 372 mass shootings in the United States, causing 469 gun fatalities and injuring an additional 1,387 victims. Compare those mass shooting numbers to broader gun violence deaths – there were 36,252 firearm deaths in 2015, comprised of 22,018 suicides, 12,979 homicides (which includes the 469 mass shooting fatalities), and 1,255 ‘other’ gun fatalities. The below chart shows that mass shootings make up less than 2% of all firearm-related deaths in 2015; moreover, school shootings are a very small percentage of mass shootings.

While the media may focus on mass shootings (especially school shootings), our gun politics debate needs to take into account the much larger context of suicide and homicide firearm deaths.

David Kennedy (Director, National Network for Safe Communities): When these mass shootings in schools occur, the public is rightfully outraged, but they are rarely as outraged by the gun violence that regularly causes trauma, fear, and grief in other communities. This is a problem, but also an opportunity to draw wider attention to the routine violence taking place in many marginalized communities. People should know that while we wait for broad solutions for preventing mass shootings, we already have immediate ways for states and cities to address this more frequent violence.

What gun restrictions or legislation, short of a ban, would be the most effective in reducing gun violence? 

Violet Yu: It is not that we not know how to have sensible gun control. The simple sad fact is that there is a lack of political, ideological and economic willpower to make this happen. It is startling how easy it is to be a gun owner. At least in the U.S., if you can afford a smartphone, you can afford a semi-automatic rifle. Once purchased, there are minimal to no ongoing maintenance expenses. This affordability allows a large number of people to own multiple firearms, and practice shooting or hunting as hobbies.
It is not a new idea to suggest registering all firearms with an agency, similar to drivers’ licenses. What about mandatory gun owner’s insurance, as expensive as motor vehicle insurance or even a mobile phone subscription? That ongoing expense would remind gun owners that they must take good care of their firearms and not let them fall into the hands of non-legal owners. It is not clear whether a measure placing an artificial economic burden on gun ownership will pass, but we have done this before by levying taxes (i.e., alcohol) or giving tax credits or subsidies as needed. Would it be crazy to add a tax on firearms? I think not.

Christopher Herrmann: I along with the overwhelming majority of Americans (including an overwhelming majority of gun-owning Americans) support a universal background check system that requires all firearm sales to go through a licensed firearms dealer, including private party and gun show transactions. I also support improving the current FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System, to incorporate any military violations and mental health screenings into the current system, and bans on assault-style weapons and bump stocks. I support a waiting period on prospective gun buyers between three and five days. And I do not advocate arming school employees.

Doug Evans: Although policymakers would like the public to think that legislation is responsible for falling rates of gun violence [in New York City], I think that is an oversimplification. It may be responsible for a small percentage of the reduction, but large cities across the country are in the midst of historic decreases in crime and violence. More prominent than legislation are economic and sociological factors.
Nevertheless, there do need to be restrictions on people with mental illness, both for the protection of the public and would-be gun owners.

What states do you believe provide the best model for potential new national legislation? 

Doug Evans: Specific gun laws vary widely not only from state to state but also within states. New York City has experienced decreasing gun crimes and the lowest number of murders in decades, as I noted earlier, but the city’s gun laws are stricter than most jurisdictions would consider implementing. It is extremely difficult to get a gun permit and even more difficult to get a license to carry a gun. Open carry of guns is not allowed anywhere in New York. The considerable paperwork, fees, background checks and additional steps New York has put in place for gaining legal access to guns are far more onerous than most states.

Christopher Herrmann: The governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island recently signed an MOU that will create a multi-state regional task force on gun violence. The objective of the task force is to (1) trace and intercept illegal guns; (2) improve data-sharing, analysis, and response efforts; and (3) establish a multidisciplinary gun violence research consortium containing researchers from criminal justice, public health, public safety, public policy, and social welfare. President Mason, David Kennedy and I were recently included on a conference call and invited to participate.
The federal government, however, has been unable to dedicate a significant research focus on gun violence and has been largely ineffective in developing policy that improves upon any of our current gun violence problems.

(Answers have been lightly edited for clarity.)

 

Doug Evans is an adjunct assistant professor at John Jay College, and a Senior Investigator/Project Director at the college’s Research and Evaluation Center. He is currently engaged in an assessment of a system-wide effort in New York City to expedite and enhance arrests, prosecutions and sentencing in felony firearm cases.

Christopher Herrmann is an assistant professor in John Jay College’s Law and Police Science Department. He specializes in crime analysis and crime mapping, and has worked with the NYPD on crime prevention and control strategies. Currently he is working on violence prevention initiatives with the New York City Housing Authority research team at John Jay, concentrating on gun violence in New York City.

David Kennedy is a professor of criminal justice at John Jay College, and the director of the National Network for Safe Communities. His work with the NNSC supports cities implementing strategic interventions to reduce violence, minimize arrest and incarceration, enhance police legitimacy, and strengthen relationships between law enforcement and communities.

Sung-suk Violet Yu is an associate professor in the Criminal Justice Department at John Jay College. Formerly of the Vera Institute of Justice, she focuses on crime prevention, corrections, and impacts of environments on spatial patterns of crime using statistical methods. Her upcoming article in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence is “Illegal Firearm Availability and Violence: Neighborhood Level Analysis.”

John Jay Scholars on the News: What Explains Falling Urban Crime Rates?

The following piece is the first in a series of interviews with faculty on their responses to questions making a big impact in the news. John Jay Scholars on the News looks at tough issues through the lens of the research our scholars are producing, and informs the way we think about important debates and the role of public scholarship and evaluation. It was originally published on January 17, 2018.

 

After a year or more of heated rhetoric around ostensibly rising rates of violent crime in many American cities, recently published statistics showing crime rates in some of these cities falling sharply have captured the attention of policy makers and academics alike. Subsequent discussion in the public sphere has tried to link policing strategies to these reductions in crime; in New York City, for example, some of that discussion has looked at the cessation of stop-question-frisk policies in New York City and our record low rates of violent crime. Because John Jay is a college with a unique focus on policing and criminal justice-related issues, we reached out to some of our faculty and staff to find out what they think is causing crime rates to drop, and whether police forces can take some of the credit.

To start, we talked with Associate Professor Eric L. Piza from the Department of Law and Police Science. He was careful to begin by qualifying his answer, reminding us that the real world isn’t controlled like an experiment, but went on to suggest that proactive, evidence-based policing strategies the NYPD began in the ’90s may have contributed to recent declines in crime rates.

It’s always tough to attribute precise credit for crime declines. The real world isn’t a laboratory, so we can’t

Eric L. Piza,
Department of Law & Police Science

carefully control conditions and isolate causal mechanisms. But with that said, looking at policing research suggests that the NYPD deserves some credit for the crime reduction. Research evidence suggests that proactive, focused policing has a much greater impact on crime occurrence than reactive policing. Importantly, the de-commitment from stop-question-frisk did not spell the end of proactive policing in NYC. Rather, the NYPD has revamped their processes to emphasize team policing and enhance community engagement. Projects such as Cure Violence and Focused Deterrence have also dedicated additional resources to focus on the highest risk offenders and neighborhoods experiencing disproportionate levels of gun violence. 

Expanding the focus to the historical crime decline, I think there’s also evidence to support the influence of police. When Commissioner [William] Bratton first arrived at the NYPD in the early 1990s, the rapid pace with which the agency deployed Broken Windows policing tactics left little time for the type of controlled evaluations that could rigorously test their influence. However, we now have ample research evidence to say that Broken Windows is indeed an effective crime reduction strategy so, in hindsight, I think we can say that the NYPD deployed an evidence-based crime reduction strategy in the 1990s. 

We also reached out to Meaghan McDonald, Director of the Group Violence Intervention strategy at the National Network for Safe Communities. She broaded our perspective, highlighting strategies that are working in cities around the country, not just in New York.

Cities as different as Detroit, Newburgh [NY], New Haven and New York City have significantly reduced or maintained historically low levels of homicides and shootings over the past year. They did so in part by doing what we know can work: focusing law enforcement, community influence, and support and outreach resources for the people who are most likely to be the victims and perpetrators of violence. 

People in groups — gangs and crews — are disproportionately involved in serious violence, and when police and communities concentrate their efforts on keeping these people alive and out of prison, they can maximize ROI [return on investment]. Agencies focusing on group violence are recognizing the power of advance communication to this population and, when a law enforcement response is necessary, making sure it is focused and legitimate. 

When cities take this approach, they have a greater chance of fundamentally changing the dynamics of violence in their city. 

Lest we feel overconfident about attributing causation, we were left with a word of caution from Jeffrey Butts, the director of the Research and Evaluation Center, that should guide all John Jay scholars whatever their field of study.

Jeffrey Butts,
Research & Evaluation Center

When asked about fluctuating crime rates or differences in crime between cities, a genuine scholar starts with a raised eyebrow or furrowed brow and then goes on to describe various other factors that could be contributing to the difference. Researchers — as opposed to politicians — never point to just one cause. Only after careful investigation of other explanations will a researcher be bold enough to reject the null hypothesis, although they address cause and effect only in terms of ‘explained variance’ or ‘effect size.’ 

This is why the general public listens to politicians more than they listen to scholars and academics. It’s easier, and can be comforting when someone in authority provides a simple explanation for the frightening uncertainty that surrounds us. Researchers, however, thrive in uncertainty. 

 

(Answers have been lightly edited for clarity.)

 

“Manufactured” Mismatch: Cultural Incongruence and Black Experience in the Academy

The following piece gives notes on the autoethnography by Criminal Justice PhD students Kwan-Lamar Blount-Hill and Victor St. John, which was the *winner* of the “Best Article Award” by the Awards Committee of the American Society of Criminology Divison on Critical Criminology and Social Justice. This piece voices their shared experience in traditionally non-minority institutions. Click here to view the full article, originally published January 23, 2017.

 

Autoethnography is still somewhat avant garde in the field of criminology and criminal justice. The notion of a researcher “studying” her or his personal experience and history engenders some skepticism as to a works’ objectivity and, therefore, its value. What this misunderstands is the realization that there is value in the subjective. We, as scientists, also prize objectivity as valuable, but our work has been premised on the idea that subjective perceptions matter. Kwan has focused his study on perceptions of government legitimacy, how the perception of injustice is enough to cultivate cynicism, encourage disobedience, and spark rebellion. Victor has concentrated on how inmate perceptions of architectural features impact their receptivity to treatment, from conscious decision-making to subconscious processes to biochemical reactions at the cellular level. Women and men much more accomplished than us have built long-lasting careers on similar arguments.

“Manufactured ‘Mismatch’” uses autoethnogaphy to explore perception and, in that regard, we believe achieved its goal. In it, we accurately captured our felt experience and argued that it represented a state of feeling that might very well be shared beyond us. Examining our subjective perceptions, we came to understand perceived “mismatch” between us and our environment through the lens of cultural incongruence, where two cultures differ such that coming together causes stress, strain or all-out clash. The two cultures we identified as being, in our cases, at least partially incongruent were “Black culture” and the “culture of criminology and criminal justice.” Exploring the coming together of these two is already made difficult by the paucity of Black academics in the field, specifically coming from majority non-minority institutions. Having no outside resources to assist, we concluded that in-depth study of this population would be impossible for us. It so happens that both of us belong to this demographic and, at any rate, do not our perceptions matter too?

Our hypothesis was that Black culture and the culture of academic criminology might clash on several points. First, we hypothesized that Blacks would see themselves more likely to criticize mainstream institutions than other academics in the field, causing some friction with institutionalists. We hypothesized that Blacks would likely feel more religious or faith-oriented than their colleagues, causing friction with those who espouse faith-free intellectualism. We hypothesized that Blacks would perceive the academy as a much more intimate space, clashing with those see it in the nature of a transactional workplace environment. Finally, we hypothesized that Blacks would feel more inclined to see themselves as members of a collective, rather than emphasize their individual success, of course, clashing with those who feel otherwise. We separately examined our own experiences and perceptions of them, using a combination of record review and recollection to determine whether our hypotheses were supported. We found that they were. Our final hypothesis was that these felt differences would cause cultural mismatch, and that cultural mismatch might be the cause of Black academic struggles, as opposed to the intellectual mismatch that has historically been offered as an explanation.

Autoethnography is valuable because it allows for deep dives into researcher perceptions that create the potential for avenues of further study and, hopefully, for further action. By no means would we argue that our study proves the existence of anything but our own personal feelings about our experience. What we would argue is that it supplies a worthy reason to engage in further study on the topic. This is particularly the case for those who profess to have genuine concern in mitigating these tensions by creating spaces where friction is not quite so palpable or by creating systems that can guide Black students, and others, through it.

Again, autoethnography creates the potential for avenues of further study and further action, though we did not anticipate the many ways it would. One such way was by revealing and explaining our feelings about our experience to colleagues who had not understood them. By writing our thoughts on the page, in the tempered language of scholarship, and allowing other academics to engage with it outside of the tense environment of direct confrontation, we allowed others the time and space to digest our message. We opened the door for later discussions that needed to be had, but were not on track to happen otherwise. Most impactful, thus far, the work generated an invitation to meet privately with a colleague of ours to explore questions that had not been fully explained in our piece. The invitation was a courageous move on the part of a non-Black faculty member who was brave enough to wade into the waters of racial tension and to hold her own. She commended our work, yes, but also challenged us on the conclusions we drew from our perceptual experiences.

As scientists, we have a duty to forthrightly reexamine our interpretations when they are called into question. So, then, we want to take a moment to engage in some reexamination. Having done some of that, we have arrived at a number of additional conclusions. These are, again, based on our own perceptions and are in need of validation through further study. However, our description of incongruence appeared to emphasize how academic culture clashed with Black culture without adequately accounting for the position on the opposite side. We seek to address that here.

Taking our assumption of greater Black cynicism toward mainstream institutions into further consideration, we must admit that this might present a challenge even to those academic institutions that want to be more welcoming. This cultural phenomenon means that Black academics may often come into an institutional situation prepped for unfair treatment. The expectation is not unwarranted – we trust we need not go into the litany of ways that American societal institutions have engaged in discrimination and structural violence towards Blacks over the centuries. Black cynicism can be viewed as a protective adaptation of the culture, though one that leads to Black academics potentially misinterpreting personality disagreements as disagreements about race.

The situation is made more complicated in that some seemingly personal disagreements are actually about race, and our colleagues inability to see this when it happens only adds to our hypersensitivity around the subject and increases our interpretation through a racial lens. Moreover, in our colorblind society, racial tensions are often due to unintentional affronts. Non-Black colleagues will complain that their intentions were not malicious or ill, seeming somehow not to understand that, in the context of a societal arrangement which necessarily disadvantages Blacks, unintentional but ignorant attitudes and actions that perpetuate disadvantage and isolation are as harmful as intentional ones. That great misunderstanding only confirms Black skepticism of institutional environments and further racializes their interpretive lenses.

To further complicate matters, those non-Black colleagues who both understand the inherent challenge of Black success in mainstream institutions – success often coming from the backdrop of multi-generational, socio-structural disadvantage – and who want to be sensitive to those challenges may nonetheless find a mistake of theirs, or a personal disagreement, or a misunderstanding, suddenly characterized as a racial issue by their Black counterparts. When Black academics begin seeing professional interactions along racial – instead of interpersonal – lines, any one-on-one conflict can be transmuted into a battle of the races. Previous experience with racial discrimination or insensitivity reinforces the salience of a racialized perspective, which may then filter truly non-racial encounters through a racialized lens, further reinforcing its salience and possibly creating racial conflict from an interaction where none was originally intended – a cycle manufacturing mismatch.

Other aspects of Black culture beyond cynicism may also drive this. Black collectivism is a prime feature of the culture. For a people who have been oppressed en masse, individual experiences may become so similar that victory and tragedy are seen as shared. We can attest to this. As each other’s only Black male contacts in our doctoral program and then connecting on a shared perception of loneliness, we are now both intimately invested in our collective success. We see a challenge to one as a challenge to both. When Kwan perceives a problem of his as due to his race, we are both mobilized to respond. If Victor encounters a problem, racial or not, to the degree that it may stymie his success, it is still a challenge to us both. Our collective is not made up of just us. More than most of our colleagues, we are sure, our families are dependent on our success, not merely as a point of pride, but as a necessary step toward the family’s unitary economic and social stability. Still more, each time we walk into a classroom, we not only feel the responsibility of a professor to his students, but a responsibility to every Black face in the classroom to demonstrate Black potential and, to every non-Black face, the responsibility of demonstrating Black capability. We feel that we are not just ourselves, we are us all.

That weight may be, in some estimations, unwieldy, unwise and unjustified, but, to us, it is also undeniable and unavoidable. We feel personally proud of Black achievement and disappointed at Black failure because we are not spectators, but that achievement or failure is our own. And for those who point out the problems with such an approach, we retort that it was not one entirely of our own creation. American has consistently dealt with Blacks as if we were one writhing monolith. A rebellion on one plantation elicited punishment within several. Resistance to Jim Crow in one place sparked retaliation in several others. A policeman’s bad experience with one Black person leads to his rough treatment of others. Academics themselves have been guilty of conflating individuals into singularity – our paper explored how perceptions of historical religious ignorance and bigotry have made Black religiosity a mark of unsophistication and anti-intellectualism. Forced into one collective Black box, we cannot be blamed for responding in kind, as we are, for ill or good, all connected. Perhaps unfortunately, this may mean that a sensation misinterpreted as pain in one corner of the Black communal body often reverberates throughout, multiplying its intensity and the nature of the response.

Black cynicism and the adoption of vicarious experience as our own is a recipe for perceiving racial incivility in every corner. Interestingly, the professor we had the opportunity to speak with challenged one of our responses to perceived incongruence. She noted that we had developed a pattern of avoiding the institution due to our discomfort. Upon reflection, we must admit that truth. To paraphrase her point, our abandonment relinquished our claim to a place where we, in fact, belonged and our absence made it difficult for those who actually cared to determine how best to make that space more inclusive. Standing up to decry the isolation that drove us away might be seen as courageous, but fleeing the scene to complain from the outskirts was decidedly not. For this, we must take responsibility.

We would add, though, that many of our colleagues – even those who are well-meaning – have often taken a similar approach, avoiding depth of contact with us in order not to risk unwittingly hitting some racial landmine. Unwillingness to traverse into uncomfortable territory is not tenable for us, but equally untenable for non-Black others. Both harm the prospects for our field’s advancement beyond the “problem of the color-line.” We commit to doing our part in bridging the gap by seeking not to bring distrust where it is not deserved, by discerning the personal from the racial (inasmuch as these can be separated), and by being present. But we must demand, then, that others be willing to acknowledge the realities that breed distrust, and commit to being proactive and helping us to overcome not only our perceptual biases, but, more importantly, the oppressive structures that produce them

One way to do that is to take advantage of another aspect of Black culture that we explored – the search for personal connection. This will make many of our colleagues uncomfortable we are sure. However, when any academic stops to think how much of her or his own success is due to friendships and social ties with others, one must see that personal connection in the profession is not so foreign a concept. We merely suggest that, for those who care, the extra step to achieve closer bonds with Black counterparts on their terms may bring outsized dividends. We have a ready example: At the outset of writing this post, our thought was simply to amplify the message of our original piece. After a conversation with the professor, who we both felt truly cared about us – even if we do not always agree with her counsel – was able to change the tenor of this discussion.

There is no single person in the United States that has not benefitted from the contribution of Black American people, even if only indirectly through recent immigration to a country whose present opportunity is built on previous, forced Black labor. We will decline to say that this necessarily creates a debt, but one might see how Black individuals may walk into institutional situations feeling something to that effect. For our part, we have little patience for those who would benefit from this system and feel no impetus to make it more equitable and more just, even if that means taking a few extra steps to connect to a Black colleague and to make them feel a part. At the same time, our very presence in academia is owed not just to Black labors, but to the work and fierce advocacy of many who look nothing like us. If a debt is owed, it is a reciprocal one. How to completely resolve the issue of inclusiveness is a subject for another paper and another day, when we have done the necessary study and contemplation to offer answers more confidently. What is clear is that the oft-recommended – but seldom done – resolution of open and honest communication rooted in a relationship of care and trust must be a first step. The second must be open and honest connection rooted in that same type of relationship. And a third must be partnership and collective effort, again, in the context of care and trust. If autoethnography has done nothing more than to help us demonstrate the effectiveness of this path, it has been a worthy endeavor and a worthwhile contribution to science.

A Community-Based Response to Charlottesville

The following piece was originally featured by The Hill on 8/16/17 under the title “Trump’s actions are more telling than his words on Charlottesville.” Heath Brown is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at John Jay and an opinion contributor to The Hill.

 

There’s been a lot of attention paid to what President Trump has or has not said about the white nationalist march in Charlottesville, VA. Commentators are right to point to the weak statements from the President and White House as it demonstrates an unwillingness to use one of the most important powers of the presidency to confront organized racism, anti-semitism, and violent bigotry.

But a president’s powers don’t end at moral suasion and rhetoric. The President oversees a massive federal bureaucracy that has historically confronted civil rights violations and violent extremism. Just six months into his administration, the President has also failed to use this power to address the rise of the anti-African American, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant crime.

For example, in his initial budget for the Department of Homeland Security, the President cancelled grants to several community organizations focused on fighting hate, preferring to focus on the threat posed by ISIS. This is unfortunate because grants to groups like, Life after Hate, can leverage the numerous ways local organizations address intractable social problems, and for very little money.

This missed opportunity also signals a way forward on difficult racial and ethnic issues facing the country. Community groups already provide so many services to those in need, from education to job training to healthcare. These groups can also provide a voice for those victims of hatred and represent community concerns with public officials.

This is especially important during election time when we decide who will make important decisions about government spending. I’ve found that for organizations serving immigrants, less than half have participated during recent elections. That means too few organizations are helping to register new voters, inform residents about important campaign issues, or mobilize communities on Election Day.

This is another missed opportunity to confront white nationalism and hatred, especially when we consider how effective community-based organizations can be in responding to a rise in racial violence like we’ve seen since last fall. During the 2012 election, organizations such as the Sikh Coalition quickly responded to the murder of Sikh worshippers in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. These groups successfully urged the Department of Justice to classify the murder as a hate crime and commit federal resources to the case.

Elsewhere in the country, even though there is a small percentage of immigrant organizations participating in elections, for those that do, they make a major difference. Since it began registering voters in 2004, the MinKwon Center for Community Action has registered 70,000 new voters in New York City. Similar organizations door-knock and phone-bank in numerous languages to make certain every eligible voter knows where and when to vote.

Various forms of racism are embedded in American society and institutions. A thorough response must be just as comprehensive, reliant on the work of office holders, officials in government, and community groups working together with the citizenry. For community groups to play this role they must be supported, not just from federal grants, but also through state and local sources, philanthropy, and neighborhoods that encourage this type of participation.

The Diffusion of Victim’s Rights in Latin America: Notes on Ongoing Research

The following piece gives notes for the ongoing research by Dr. Veronica Michel, an Assistant Professor of Political Science. This research evaluates criminal procedure cross-nationally to examine victim’s rights in Latin America. It was originally posted in 2017.

 

For almost a decade I have been doing research on victims’ rights in Latin America. My interest in this topic began because while conducting research for my dissertation at the University of Minnesota I learned that victims of crime in most Latin American countries are granted a very interesting procedural right: the right to private prosecution within criminal proceedings.

I have explained in some of my previous publications (for instance, in this co-authored article with Kathryn Sikkink), that the right to private prosecution goes well beyond a victim’s right to speak granted in the US because the right to private prosecution grants the victim the right to participate with a lawyer in the prosecution of a crime. As interesting and important as private prosecution is for access to justice (and it is, as I argue here, here, and also in a forthcoming book), in Latin America victims of crime are granted many other rights. For instance, victims have strong reparation rights, like the right to introduce a civil claim within a criminal proceeding, also known as a civil action; and victims are also granted important protection rights, like the right to be informed about the state of the proceedings or the right to be offered shelter or protection when needed.

A content analysis of the current criminal procedure codes in 17 civil law countries in the region shows that these statutes provide quite a vast array of rights to victims of crime. What I find fascinating, however, is that all these rights are quite new. Yes, victims have always existed as long as crime has been around. But “victims’ rights” as such are quite new. As you can see in the Word Cloud above, an analysis of these 17 current criminal procedure codes reveals that among the most used concepts in these statutes we find the words “victim” (víctima) or private prosecutor (querellante).

Moreover, a closer comparison of old and current criminal procedure codes also reveals that the more recent a statute is, the more references to “victims” it makes. Some old criminal procedure codes did not even include the word victim in the whole statute. For instance, the criminal procedure codes of Nicaragua of 1879 or even the one of Honduras from 1985, did not even once mentioned the word victim.

In contrast, since 1994 we have witnessed an expansion of victims’ rights in criminal procedure. For example, Mexico’s previous criminal procedure code of 1934 only mentioned the word victim twice. In sharp contrast, its latest statute which entered into force in 2014, mentions the word 169 times!

So where do these “victims’ rights” come from? Why is it that countries gradually embraced the “victim” and began to expand the rights granted to this actor? Why is it that most countries in the region today provide all these similar rights? These are the questions that I am now exploring in an article that aims to explain how Latin America came to have such a vast array of rights for victims. So, stay tuned. I will report soon a summary of my findings in this blog.

Jurisdictions to watch on local enforcement, part four: Alamance County, North Carolina

This entry is the fourth in a series on the involvement of local law enforcement agencies in immigration enforcement under the Trump Administration’s January 25th executive orders and the follow-up February 20th DHS implementation memos. Please see the January 26th introductory entry and prior entries on Orange County, California, Etowah County, Alabama, and Frederick County, Maryland for context.

In the two weeks since my last profile (of Frederick County, MD), media scrutiny of the 287g program has sharpened considerably. I’m particularly grateful to two journalists who have taken the time to better understand the incentive structures at play that may contribute to some sheriffs approaching 287g as an ‘entrepreneurial’ enforcement initiative: Bryan Schatz of Mother Jones, and Tanvi Misra of The Atlantic’s Citylab. Anna Flagg of The Marshall Project has also contributed her considerable visual acumen to portraying the rich historical data on 287g in the public domain in a way that lays bare the program’s national impact – and gives a sense of where immigrant communities may be the most vulnerable moving forward.

Media and public attention on immigration enforcement has become all the more vital in light of the Trump administration’s continued impact on the news cycle; the President’s announcement during his joint address to congress that he was open to ‘compromise immigration reform’ may not be a deliberate distraction from ongoing developments in enforcement and detention, but it certainly seems to have attracted significant media attention that might otherwise have been turned elsewhere. Among the substantive immigration enforcement developments that this and similar high-profile public announcements from the White House pushed out of the headlines were the increasingly aggressive actions of ICE agents themselves, who appear after the reversal of Obama-era discretion policies to be making symbolic arrests that sow fear among immigrant populations. Some of these arrests seem tailor-made to communicate the message that literally nowhere is now safe, undermining any sense of security that might be taken from sanctuary cities or sanctuary campuses. Perhaps more importantly, they undermine the participation of undocumented immigrants (and, frequently, their US Citizen children) in constitutionally-protected human rights like public education and public safety.

This widespread sense of fear and insecurity compounds two other issues of moment regarding immigration control: the enormous and growing backlog of federal immigration cases – in a context where immigrants will now be nearly universally subject to mandatory detention while asylum and other immigration cases are under review – and the now-public efforts of DHS to quickly and significantly expand detention capacity. An expansion of 20 thousand beds indicates that Secretary Kelly expects a nearly 50% increase in the current ‘average daily population’ (ADP) of 41,000 immigrants in detention on any given day. Such an expansion will not only represent a windfall for private/for-profit detention providers like CoreCivic (formerly the Corrections Corporation of America) and the GEO Group, but also (as I discussed in my last entry) the county sheriffs who operate local jails with spare beds that can be leased to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through intergovernmental service agreements (IGSAs) for what is often a lucrative per diem fee. This phenomenon will likely be especially pronounced in jurisdictions along the US-Mexico border, where the ending of Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) ‘catch-and-release’ policy will mean yet another influx of new detainees.

Alamance County is the first of our profile counties whose 287g agreement is no longer in effect, meaning that speculation on the future of the program under the Trump administration is just that. Given, however, that the Alamance County Sheriffs Office (ACSO) lost its 287g agreement in the midst of federal civil rights litigation alleging racial profiling of Latinos under the auspices of the program, signing a new 287g with the ACSO would be a clear repudiation of Obama-era enforcement policy. Such repudiations are arguably the Trump administration’s stock-in-trade across a whole spectrum of policy arenas, but the symbolism of entering an enforcement agreement with a jurisdiction previously under investigation for civil rights violations would be particularly telling.

The Alamance County Sheriff, Terry S. Johnson, appears in many of his public statements to be an ideologue in the Chuck Jenkins mold, if somewhat less outspoken. Perhaps the most significant differences between Alamance and our two prior jurisdictions – Franklin County, Maryland and Etowah County, Alabama – are demographic ones: Alamance, with a population of about 150 thousand, has had a large and growing Latino community since the 1990s, accounting in the last census for over 11% of the county’s population. To reiterate the key characteristics that qualify Alamance County for inclusion in this series:

1) “Jurisdictions to watch” have operated consistently under the same chief executive since before the Obama administration’s efforts to reform 287g. In most cases, this means that the same individual who signed the jurisdiction’s first 287g memorandum of agreement is still making the relevant executive decisions about involvement in immigration enforcement moving forward.

2) They are (with few exceptions) county law enforcement agencies headed by elected sheriffs.

3) They have started deportation proceedings for significant numbers of immigrant arrestees under their 287g programs in the past.

4) They have clear incentives for directly involving their officers in immigration enforcement. While these incentives are often political, they are often financial as well, with direct income and/or indirect ‘economic activity’ arising from close ties to private/for-profit immigrant detention facilities located within the jurisdiction, and/or Intergovernmental Service Agreements (IGSAs) under which ICE pays the jurisdiction a per-day fee to detain immigrants in the local jail.

Alamance County fulfills all four of these criteria, although I should again stress that its 287g agreement was rescinded by the Obama administration in 2012. If anything, this makes it a more important jurisdiction to profile from the perspective of advocacy, as 287g was ended there through the intervention of a tool – federal civil rights litigation – that is unlikely to be available to advocates under the current administration. What other kinds of litigation or approaches to grassroots organizing remain possible in the face of an emboldened immigration enforcement apparatus has yet to be tested, but a renewed 287g agreement in Alamance County would arguably represent an attack on civil rights and constitutional protections necessitating an early test of these strategies.

ALAMANCE COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA

SHERIFF: Terry S. Johnson.

Johnson, a Republican, has been Alamance County Sheriff since 2002, and is currently under consideration for an appointment to the US Marshals Service under the Trump administration. Johnson, who was accused under the Department of Justice’s 2012 investigation of the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) of referring to Spanish speakers as “taco eaters”, “received support [for his appointment] from every sheriff in the other 23 counties in the U.S. Middle District of North Carolina”. The Department of Justice brought suit against Johnson himself (rather than the ACSO as a whole) in 2012, after he categorized the DOJ’s findings in their initial investigation as “completely false”. In what was then a first for the DOJ’s civil rights actions against law enforcement agencies, the Department lost its case against Johnson in 2015, with US District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder finding that the government had not proved its case. While the DOJ originally appealed the verdict, it dropped that appeal in August of 2016.

ARRESTEES PROCESSED FOR DEPORTATION UNDER 287G: 280 in 2012 – a number significantly lower than the annual average of 355 that the ACSO achieved in the five preceding years of 287g enforcement, and likely reflecting the pressure that the ongoing DOJ investigation put the department under. Alamance County’s population of 150 thousand was 11% Hispanic or Latino according to the 2010 census, so if most of the arrestees processed for deportation were Latino county residents, around 2% of this community was directly affected on an annual basis. Given the likely indirect effects of this enforcement on children, partners, other family members, and the community at large, Alamance’s immigrant population may have long been familiar with the level of stress and uncertainty currently being experienced by immigrant communities nationwide.

ACTIVE IMMIGRANT DETENTION FACILITIES: The Intergovernmental Service Agreement through which ICE contracted with the Alamance County Jail to provide bed space for immigrant detainees appears to have been rescinded with the county’s 287g MOA in late 2012. At its 2010-11 peak, however, its average of 45 immigrant detainees would have made up 15% of the jail’s average daily population of 300. As recently as 2016, the ACSO shuttered a 76-bed detention center “annex” as a cost-saving measure; as discussed above, there is a clear incentive to monetize this excess bed space under the Trump administration’s expansion of detention capacity.

AVERAGE DAILY POPULATION (ADP) OF IMMIGRANT DETAINEES: The Alamance County Jail held an average of 29 immigrant detainees on any given day throughout 2012. This represents a significant drop-off from the approximate ADP of 89 when the county first signed its 287g MOA in 2007. With a per diem of $61, the ACSO’s detention and related operations yielded $2.6 million from ICE that year – $1.87 million for detention, and $730 thousand for transportation. Alamance’s reduced 2012 ADP indicates a partnership going out of favor in the face of the DOJ’s ongoing civil rights investigation. Under these reduced circumstances, ADP income would likely have been cut by over 50% from documented 2007 levels ($71 * 29 detainees * 365 days) to $750 thousand for detention alone. Alamance’s 2007 IGSA gives us the ability to further estimate a proportional income from transportation of $275 thousand (730k/541 = $1,350 per detainee in 2007, or $1,565 * 176 total detainees in 2012). Thus even under DOJ investigation, Alamance was likely able to clear $1 million in funding for detention and transportation of deportable immigrants. Interestingly, the total funding that could be directly attributed to Alamance’s enforcement activity under 287g – about $1.64 million ($71 * 280 processed for deportation * 60 day average stay = $1.2m, + 280*$1,565=$440k) – is in fact 60% higher than the amount the recorded ADP suggests, illustrating the clear budgetary importance of maintaining the appearance of unbiased enforcement under the Obama-era DHS.

HISTORY OF 287G IN ALAMANCE COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA: As detailed above, Alamance County entered into its 287g enforcement agreement in 2007, as part of a wave of several North Carolina jurisdictions that joined that year. The ACSO’s original 287g memorandum of agreement was an agreement for jail enforcement only, adding a cautionary note to statements by other 287g-supporting sheriffs that jail enforcement agreements are intrinsically safer than street enforcement agreements or comparatively free of bias. The crux of the DOJ’s case against Johnson was research indicating that Latinos in were significantly more likely than other ethnicities to be stopped at ACSO roadblocks and for minor traffic violations, and more likely to be arrested rather than warned or cited when stopped – largely the same kinds of enforcement patterns cited in criticisms that characterized 287g task-force agreements as biased and reliant on profiling. The material difference between task-force and jail-based 287g agreements lies in the fact that interrogation about immigration status takes place within the confines of the county jail in the case of the latter, and in the public view for the former. This difference does not inoculate jail enforcement agreements from patterns of arrest intended to yield higher numbers of detentions and deportations.

CONTEXT AROUND CONTINUED IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT UNDER 287G IN ALAMANCE COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA: As discussed above, whether under Sheriff Johnson during his remaining time in office, or under his successor at a later date, the reentry of an emboldened Alamance County Sheriffs Office into the 287g fold would represent a clear symbolic break from Obama-era cautions around profiling-based immigration enforcement by local jurisdictions. To renew an agreement with Alamance would arguably represent an implicit statement – at most hinted at in Trump’s January 25th Executive Orders and the follow-up Kelly memo – that racial profiling and other forms of biased enforcement would be tacitly acceptable for local jurisdictions acting in support of the administration’s stated detention and deportation goals. Even in the context of an emboldened ICE and an increasingly indiscriminate immigrant detention and deportation regime, this tacit approval of unconstitutional policing practices would represent a new and extreme departure from established professional law enforcement standards – and a redirection of the federal civil rights apparatus (encompassing the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security alike) that has long been tasked with supporting them. Advocates and other close observers may well be expecting this departure, but would do well to keep an eye on Alamance County to see it confirmed.

Daniel L. Stageman, PhD is Director of Research Operations at CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He is also a criminologist whose scholarship focuses on making sense of America’s punitive approach to immigrants. He can be contacted at dstageman(at)jjay.cuny.edu. This has been the second in his series of profiles of “jurisdictions to watch” on local immigration enforcement under the new policies promulgated by President Trump’s January 25th executive orders. Next up: Gwinett County, Georgia.

Jurisdictions to watch on local enforcement, part three: Frederick County, Maryland

This entry is the third in a series on the involvement of local law enforcement agencies in immigration enforcement under the Trump Administration’s January 25th executive orders. Please see the January 26th introductory entry and prior entries on Orange County, California and Etowah County, Alabama for context.

Moving forward with the process of profiling jurisdictions that are current 287g agreement holders, it’s essential to acknowledge how quickly policy on interior and border immigration enforcement is moving. What I had originally envisioned as a set of “jurisdictions to watch” is fast becoming a set of templates for imagining the range of possible approaches to enforcement under the proliferation of new 287g agreements that seems likely to arise under the DHS’ stated intention to pursue them aggressively. DHS Secretary John Kelly’s leaked February 17th enforcement memo (released officially today) contains a great deal to unpack, primarily around the agency’s specific plans for implementing the broad strokes of Trump’s January 25th executive orders. While less sensational than the earlier leaked memo detailing plans to utilize National Guard troops to support enforcement activity in a handful of Western states, its contents have the potential to be every bit as momentous – if not more so, given the relative ease of putting them into effect.

Perhaps the most momentous statement in the memo (and the competition for that distinction is indeed sharp) comes early on, in the first sentence under Section A.:

The President has determined that the lawful detention of aliens arriving in the United States or otherwise described in section 235(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) pending a final determination of whether to order them removed, including determining eligibility for immigration relief, is the most efficient means by which to enforce the immigration laws at our borders.

Hiding within this seemingly innocuous statement is an explicit mandate for an unprecedented expansion of the nation’s detention infrastructure, an expansion likely to bring back online every prison bed (and then some) emptied in the painstaking nationwide efforts to reduce mass incarceration, and likely to have even more profound effects on nascent parallel efforts to reduce jail populations as well. This effect may well be most keenly felt at and near the U.S.-Mexico border, where the ending of Customs and Border Protection’s longstanding “catch and release” policy will result in the immediate introduction of an entirely new population into detention. It remains to be seen how much additional bed space will be required in short order to make these new policies a reality, but we can safely make a few assumptions: (1) that the vocally pro-enforcement ranks of front-line ICE agents (and their CBP colleagues) will begin enforcement of these policies with a zeal in marked contrast to the resistance with which they met the Obama-era discretion policies that the Kelly memo rescinds in their entirety; (2) that the budgetary requirements of this immediate expansion of detention space will require congressional attention (whether in the overall annual budgetary process or an emergency allocation specific to the administration’s immigration enforcement priorities); and (3) that the expansion will result in a bonanza for private/for-profit detention providers and administration-friendly local jail authorities alike.

Numerous commentators have observed the importance of local authorities like elected prosecutors to maintaining the momentum of criminal justice reform efforts in the Trump era, and the importance of elected county sheriffs to the future of immigration enforcement is an important parallel. Frederick County, Maryland may be a bellweather in this regard, based on the recent history of the jurisdiction and its outspoken longtime sheriff, Charles A. “Chuck” Jenkins. A random sampling of recent news reports on Jenkins, the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, and its approach to immigration enforcement could seemingly give the casual observer highly contrasting ideas about the purpose and effects of its 287g participation, depending on whether one turned up the news of the department’s recent outreach to Hispanic community groups, or the criticisms of some of those same community groups regarding its patterns of enforcement.

A more systematic examination of Sheriff Jenkins’ public statements on immigration, however, reveals him to be an immigration ideologue – in particular his April 19, 2016 public testimony before the House Judiciary Committee:

The effectiveness and value of local law enforcement partnering or at least simply cooperating with ICE is beyond measure to local public safety. Failure to cooperate and detain known criminal aliens for ICE has lead to American citizens being killed, wounded, injured, and sexually victimized in jurisdictions everywhere. […] It is my belief that if this Congress and the next President do not take action to close and secure the border with Mexico and simply enforce the federal immigration laws that exist, every county in America will become a border county. [emphasis added]

In sharp contrast to the more measured, evidence-based, public safety-oriented approach position outlined by Sheriff Todd Entrekin of Etowah County, Alabama (as profiled in my last entry), Jenkins chooses to align his public stance with the absolutist language (“everywhere”, “every county”) deployed by President Trump throughout his campaign, constructing the narrative of an immigrant crime-wave wholly unsupported by evidence, but signaling a commitment to nativist ideology and the policy priorities that accompany it. This contrast adds important context to the key characteristics that qualify Frederick County for inclusion in this series:

1) “Jurisdictions to watch” have operated consistently under the same chief executive since before the Obama administration’s efforts to reform 287g. In most cases, this means that the same individual who signed the jurisdiction’s first 287g memorandum of agreement is still making the relevant executive decisions about involvement in immigration enforcement moving forward.

2) They are (with few exceptions) county law enforcement agencies headed by elected sheriffs.

3) They have started deportation proceedings for significant numbers of immigrant arrestees under their 287g programs in the past.

4) They have clear incentives for directly involving their officers in immigration enforcement. While these incentives are often political, they are often financial as well, with direct income and/or indirect ‘economic activity’ arising from close ties to private/for-profit immigrant detention facilities located within the jurisdiction, and/or Intergovernmental Service Agreements (IGSAs) under which ICE pays the jurisdiction a per-day fee to detain immigrants in the local jail.

Frederick County fulfills all four of these criteria, even while posting 287g processing numbers that appear moderate next to some of the larger, more immigrant-heavy jurisdictions under review. Frederick County is a potentially important jurisdiction for immigrant advocates because of the possibilities that it raises for working with other levers of local political power to keep in check the worst impulses of a sheriff who is apparently approaching 287g enforcement under the assumptions of nativist ideology. Frederick County, while leaning Republican, is not necessarily an ideological stronghold, and Sheriff Jenkins’ support there, while widespread, is not universal. Perhaps more importantly, Frederick County transitioned in 2014 to a County Charter Government, meaning an elected County Executive – currently Democrat Jan H. Gardner – holds approval power over his budget.

FREDERICK COUNTY, MARYLAND

SHERIFF: Charles A. Jenkins.

Jenkins, a Republican and public supporter of the far right Tea Party movement, was first elected sheriff in 2006 – in part on the strength of campaign promises to ‘crack down’ on unauthorized immigrants – following the retirement of his predecessor James W. Hagy. Jenkins followed through on those promises with the signing of Frederick County’s first 287g agreement in 2008, and has since won reelection twice, in 2010 and 2014. An early supporter of Trump’s presidential campaign, Jenkins has been a frequent commenter since the election on the 287g program, local law enforcement detainer policies, and the Trump administration’s approach to ‘sanctuary cities’. Thus far, he has been careful to distinguish his department’s jail-enforcement agreement from the street-based, task-force agreements rescinded by the Obama administration in 2012, stressing that his officers do not engage in ‘show me your papers’ style enforcement; it will be interesting to know if his rhetoric on this distinction changes once the renewal of 287g task-force agreements is a matter of public DHS policy.

ARRESTEES PROCESSED FOR DEPORTATION UNDER 287G: 138 in 2012 – a number just into three figures and lower than many other 287g counties but proportionately significant for Frederick County’s population of 245 thousand (8.7% of whom Hispanic or Latino). Also of particular note is the statistic in the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office 2012 Annual Report stating that, of the 1,136 detainers lodged in the program’s history up to that point, only 9.5% (108) were “encountered and arrested for felony offenses” – a statistic that throws into question Sheriff Jenkins’ repeated statements about not engaging in street arrests on the basis of immigration status.

ACTIVE IMMIGRANT DETENTION FACILITIES: The Frederick County Detention Center appears to be a purely administrative distinction applied to immigrants detained in the Frederick County Jail, among its general population bed capacity of 348. It’s ADP of 54 immigrants would thus account for some 16% of the jail’s general population, or 12% of its total population of 439.

AVERAGE DAILY POPULATION (ADP) OF IMMIGRANT DETAINEES: The Frederick County Jail held an average of 54 immigrants on any given day throughout 2012. Per diem/per detainee compensation was $83 in 2007 – Assuming 3% annual increase and consistent ADP, a conservative estimate of 2016 gross receipts for detention in Frederick County would be ($112 * 54 detainees * 365 days) = $2.2 million. A significant proportion of this total – about $930 thousand ($112 * 138 processed for deportation * 60 day average stay), or around 42% –  could potentially be attributed to enforcement activity under 287g.

HISTORY OF 287G IN FREDERICK COUNTY, MARYLAND: As detailed above, Frederick County entered into its current 287g enforcement agreement in 2008, in fulfillment of Sheriff Jenkins’ campaign promise to do so. Assuming its growing population of immigrants from Mexico and Central America features a proportionately growing undocumented community, the political/ideological value of Jenkins’ vocal anti-immigrant stance could well be rooted in the anxieties of the county’s core voting demographic of longtime white residents in reaction to the changing character (rural to suburban, agricultural to residential, growing diversity) of the community. Jenkins’ 63% 2014 reelection victory, despite the controversies dogging his department in prior years, would seem to bear out this view – indeed, Jenkins himself attributed his victory to “old Frederick”.

CONTEXT AROUND CONTINUED IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT UNDER 287G IN FREDERICK COUNTY, MARYLAND: Frederick County bears a very different demographic profile from the overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly Republican Etowah County, making it impossible for Sheriff Jenkins to pursue an aggressive approach to 287g enforcement in a vacuum. The vocal support the Sheriff’s immigration enforcement activities received from the prior County Commissioner have not been matched by the current elected County Executive, and if immigrant detention in the Frederick County Jail has significant budgetary implications for the Sheriff’s Office and the County overall, so do the liability concerns raised by enforcement activity rooted in profiling. Jenkins has not signaled a willingness to take on the perspective of a law enforcement professional to discuss the evidence-based merits of immigration enforcement as a public safety tool; thus the levers available for preventing or mitigating the harm likely to be caused by a ramped-up approach to 287g enforcement in Frederick County are distinct from the kinds of approaches that might bear fruit with a less ideological actor like Entrekin. These approaches are legal and political, and reliant on the reality that Jenkins is not a fully independent decision-maker in his role as Frederick County’s chief public safety officer. Consistent pressure on Frederick County’s budget, and the political fortunes of its elected decision-makers, may serve to rein in the darker impulses of an ideologue like Jenkins, who would otherwise appear likely to take the freest possible hand allowable under the Trump administration’s new approach to local immigration enforcement.

Daniel L. Stageman, PhD is Director of Research Operations at CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He is also a criminologist whose scholarship focuses on making sense of America’s punitive approach to immigrants. He can be contacted at dstageman(at)jjay.cuny.edu. This has been the second in his series of profiles of “jurisdictions to watch” on local immigration enforcement under the new policies promulgated by President Trump’s January 25th executive orders. Next up: Alamance County, North Carolina.

Jurisdictions to watch on local enforcement, part two: Etowah County, Alabama

This entry is the third in a series on the involvement of local law enforcement agencies in immigration enforcement under the Trump Administration’s January 25th executive orders. Please see the January 26th introductory entry and January 30th entry on Orange County, California for context.

Since I introduced my ongoing database project on January 26th, focus on the Trump administration’s immigration policy has shifted precipitously – in the whiplash fashion that has become typical of the administration’s first days in office – to the travel ban affecting the nationals of seven predominantly Muslim countries. As the legal battle over this executive order begins to look (at least temporarily) like a rare high-profile victory for the opposition, media attention has again begun to turn back to the administration’s developing approach to internal immigration enforcement. Conflicting reports of large-scale raids by ICE agents over the weekend follow closely on the heels of Trump’s Wednesday February 8th ‘roundtable’ with county sheriffs, a collection of supporters and ideologues culled largely from the leadership of the National Sheriffs’ Association. As an early endorser of the Trump campaign, the association and its membership rolls of elected sheriffs from largely rural counties across the nation have made highly visible efforts to align themselves with the new administration, putting them in the company of rank-and-file police unions like the Fraternal Order of Police and at odds (on several issues including immigration) with police leadership organizations like the Major Cities Chiefs Association and International Association of Chiefs of Police.

While I have yet to see a comprehensive list of the Sheriffs who attended Wednesday’s White House roundtable, none of the ten sheriffs named in the official transcript oversee jurisdictions with current 287g agreements. Two of the sheriffs mentioned in the lead-up to the event – Sandra Hutchens of Orange County, California (profiled in my last entry) and Daron Hall of Davidson County, Tennessee – do hold current 287g agreements. Regardless of whether Hutchens was present at the Sheriffs roundtable or not, Trump made a point of thanking her by name in his remarks to the Major Cities Chiefs Association earlier in the day.

Maintaining close ties with loyal supporters at different levels of government appears to be a characteristic feature of Trump’s approach to governance, so it will be important to watch closely the implications for immigration enforcement where these political connections are mirrored by administrative links like 287g. Etowah County has held contractual relationships with ICE (and its predecessor the INS) dating back to its first detention agreement in 1998; its 287g agreement, though a more recent endeavor, dates back at least until 2008. These administrative links do not, however, appear to be mirrored by political ones: Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin was in fact an early supporter of (relative) immigration moderate Marco Rubio. So why is Etowah County being profiled? It may help for me to quickly reiterate the key characteristics for inclusion in this series:

1) “Jurisdictions to watch” have operated consistently under the same chief executive since before the Obama administration’s efforts to reform 287g. In most cases, this means that the same individual who signed the jurisdiction’s first 287g memorandum of agreement is still making the relevant executive decisions about involvement in immigration enforcement moving forward.

2) They are (with few exceptions) county law enforcement agencies headed by elected sheriffs.

3) They have started deportation proceedings for significant numbers of immigrant arrestees under their 287g programs in the past.

4) They have clear incentives for directly involving their officers in immigration enforcement. While these incentives are often political, they are often financial as well, with direct income and/or indirect ‘economic activity’ arising from close ties to private/for-profit immigrant detention facilities located within the jurisdiction, and/or Intergovernmental Service Agreements (IGSAs) under which ICE pays the jurisdiction a per-day fee to detain immigrants in the local jail.

Etowah County in fact fulfills only three out of these four criteria, in that it does not appear to have started deportation proceedings for a significant number of immigrant arrestees under its 287g program, though it has arguably processed large numbers in proportion to its small overall population and even smaller immigrant population. Etowah County is an important jurisdiction for immigrant advocates because of this exception rather than in spite of it, because it presents an opportunity for engagement on issues of public safety that is unusual in 287g jurisdictions nationwide. Sheriff Entrekin, while a Republican serving what appears to be a highly conservative Alabama constituency, does not appear to be an ideologue; rather, his decision-making regarding immigration enforcement appears to be a pragmatic outgrowth of his agency’s long standing as an immigrant detention provider. The available evidence suggests that Entrekin recognizes the importance of open communication between immigrant communities and law enforcement, suggesting a public-safety orientation more typical of law enforcement executives in larger cities than elected sheriffs.

ETOWAH COUNTY, ALABAMA

SHERIFF: Todd Entrekin.

Entrekin, a Republican, was first appointed Sheriff by then Alabama Governor Bob Riley in 2007, following the death of his elected predecessor, James Hayes. Entrekin has since won reelection twice, in 2010 and 2014. He has been an outspoken supporter of both 287g and Secure Communities, testifying before congress in support of both programs in 2011. This support does not appear to extend to the nativist political posturing adopted by some elected sheriffs, however: in his testimony regarding Alabama’s restrictive anti-immigrant 2011 state legislation, HB 56: Entrekin testified that the law “would not only burden local law enforcement in a negative fashion, it would burden other social services as well.”

ARRESTEES PROCESSED FOR DEPORTATION UNDER 287G: 63 in 2012 – a number considerably smaller than the thousands processed in many other 287g counties but proportionately significant for Etowah County’s low population (about 104 thousand residents, 3.3% of whom Hispanic or Latino).

ACTIVE IMMIGRANT DETENTION FACILITIES: The Etowah County Detention Center, with a capacity of 357, occupies an $8 million wing of the Etowah County Jail. The then Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) funded this expansion directly in 2003, in order to outfit the facility to house long-term detainees. Despite this investment, conditions at the facility have long been considered problematic, sufficiently so that ICE announced the facility’s closure in 2010 (an effort that was halted by the political intervention of local representatives) and it was featured by the Detention Watch Network in its 2012 Expose & Close series as one of the “worst in the country.”

AVERAGE DAILY POPULATION (ADP) OF IMMIGRANT DETAINEES: The Etowah County Jail held an average of 341 immigrants on any given day throughout 2012. Per diem/per detainee compensation was $45 in 2015 – consistent with rates at other Alabama facilities but among the lowest in the nation overall. Gross receipts for detention in Etowah thus exceed $5 million ($45 * 341 detainees * 365 days = $5.6 million); however, Etowah’s IGSA details compensation for additional services such as transportation that have the potential to add significantly to this total. A very small proportion of this total – about $170 thousand ($45 * 63 processed for deportation * 60 day average stay), or around 3% – could potentially be attributed to enforcement activity under 287g.

HISTORY OF 287G IN ETOWAH COUNTY, ALABAMA: As detailed above, 287g enforcement in Etowah County appears largely to be an outgrowth of the relationship established in 1998 with a detention contract, possibly reflecting a desire at the time of its original signing for closer ties to shore up the deteriorating status of the troubled Etowah County Detention Center. Having neither a significant undocumented immigrant community, nor (as one of the smallest and most densely populated counties in Alabama) a significant agricultural economy that might attract non-resident immigrant laborers, Etowah’s 287g program would be equally difficult to justify as a response to a clearly defined crime problem within an immigrant community, or postulate as a cynical attempt to increase detention numbers.

CONTEXT AROUND CONTINUED IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT UNDER 287G IN ETOWAH COUNTY, ALABAMA: Etowah County’s approach to 287g enforcement raises essential questions about the tools that advocates have at their disposal to directly address the relationship between federal immigration enforcement and local law enforcement agencies nationwide. The clearly problematic conditions for long-term detainees in the Etowah County Detention Center are an issue for another context; setting them aside, we can perhaps recognize Sheriff Entrekin as a pragmatic decision-maker, managing an inherited relationship with significant budgetary implications for his agency and jurisdiction overall. It is important for advocates to recognize the potential presented by a pragmatic sheriff who appears to prize evidence-based public safety concerns over ideological posturing. Credible messengers in a position to promote evidence-based public safety policy among elected county sheriffs are few and far between. This is in sharp contrast to law enforcement leadership from major cities: while it remains to be seen what impact the outspoken support for evidence-based public safety policy among the latter will have on federal law enforcement policy, they have at least set a precedent for engaging directly and publicly with the Trump administration on its law enforcement agenda.

To date, there is no parallel engagement effort on the part of elected county sheriffs; indeed, the National Sheriffs’ Association appears more interested in treating the administration’s first 100 days as a prolonged victory lap than engaging on general or specific issues related to an evidence based public safety agenda. How will 287g enforcement play out in a jurisdiction like Etowah given this context? Will it reflect the kind of outreach Sheriff Entrekin has recently made to the immigrant community in his jurisdiction, and if so, does this indicate the potential for direct engagement with Entrekin around the public safety implications of the Trump administration’s intended approach? For some pro-immigrant advocacy organizations, any goal short of ending local police involvement with immigration enforcement will be insufficient; nevertheless, the value of any ‘credible messenger’ within the ranks of the nation’s county sheriffs can hardly be overstated, especially one who might make a case for setting prudent limits around the use of immigration enforcement as a public safety tool. Whether Sheriff Entrekin has this potential remains to be seen, preferably through the lens of a more thorough local investigation.

Daniel L. Stageman, PhD is Director of Research Operations at CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He is also a criminologist whose scholarship focuses on making sense of America’s punitive approach to immigrants. He can be contacted at dstageman(at)jjay.cuny.edu. This has been the second in his series of profiles of “jurisdictions to watch” on local immigration enforcement under the new policies promulgated by President Trump’s January 25th executive orders. Next up: Frederick County, Maryland.

The Trump Administration and LGBT Rights

Our latest blog entry comes from Professor of Political Science Daniel Pinello. Professor Pinello is also author ofAmerica’s War on Same-Sex Couples and their Families: And How the Courts Rescued

By:  Daniel Pinello, 2/7/2017

Shortly after the November 2016 presidential election, the New York Times published the headline “Trump Win Seen as ‘Devastating Loss’ for Gay and Transgender People.” Offering reasons from the President-Elect’s business and personal histories to believe he himself lacked animosity toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered folks, the article nonetheless emphasized the overt hostility to LGBT rights evident in the Republican Party’s national platform (including the GOP’s advocacy of parents’ requiring their gay and transgender kids to go into “conversion therapy” to alter their sexual orientation or gender identity). Moreover, Donald Trump’s choice of Governor Mike Pence as Vice President especially distressed the queer community. The Indianan promoted public funding of conversion therapy, voted in Congress against bills prohibiting sexual-orientation and gender-identity discrimination and against the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, and signed a state law allowing businesses the “religious freedom” not to serve gay and lesbian people.

Trump’s cabinet picks also sent tremors through LGBT groups. Declining to sing at the inauguration, for instance, Jennifer Holliday observed that the incoming federal regime was “a who’s who of homophobia.” Notable among the Trump nominees were Jeff Sessions as Attorney General and Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. As an Alabama senator, Sessions supported amending the Federal Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage, voted against queer people’s open service in the American military, and objected to bills protecting against sexual-orientation and gender-identity discrimination in the workplace. When Tillerson became chief executive of Exxon Mobil in 2006, the oil company’s score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index was 0 percent. Exxon Mobil didn’t formally adopt anti-discrimination policies regarding sexual orientation and gender identity until 2015, a year after the Obama Administration mandated that businesses under contract with the federal government protect LGBT workers. By 2017, the oil company’s HRC score was 85 percent, conspicuously behind 514 other enterprises (like Apple, Chevron, and Walmart) with 100 percent ratings.

So what damage can the Trump Administration do to LGBT rights? A comprehensive answer first requires recognition that our American system of federalism provides states with most of the powers important to the daily lives of queer folk. Legal relationship recognition (whether between coupled partners or the minor children they’re raising), the ownership and distribution of property within families, protections against discrimination in the workplace, housing, and public accommodations – all these vital issues and more are primarily regulated at the state level. Thus, LGBT rights that exist pursuant to state law (such as to marry or adopt children or not to be fired from a job for being gay or transgender) cannot be directly affected by the President or Congress. So queer people living in progressive places like California, Massachusetts, and New York have little to fear immediately from Republicans in Washington, DC.

Rather, LGBT individuals living in the 28 jurisdictions (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming) without statewide legal-protections against sexual-orientation or gender-identity discrimination have better reason to feel insecure. For years, bills that would add sexual orientation and/or gender identity to the personal-attribute categories protected from discrimination under federal law have languished in Congress. And that lacuna in national legal safeguards for queer folk isn’t likely to be filled while the White House or either congressional branch is under GOP control. Accordingly, had Hillary Clinton won the Electoral College in addition to the popular vote, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives would still have blocked progress in federal statutory protections. So Trump’s ascendancy isn’t decisive for the logjam in such prospective national legislation.

However, the new president can revoke his predecessor’s executive orders regarding policies of concern to the LGBT community or issue new decrees antagonistic to queer rights. For example, in 2010, Barack Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services promulgated regulations requiring hospitals receiving Medicare or Medicaid funding to extend the visitation rights of patients to include their same-sex partners. A subsequent directive allowed married lesbian and gay couples to take family and medical leave. In all, more than 100 executive actions and regulatory changes by the Obama Administration improved the daily lives of queer Americans in sundry ways. Trump has the power to annul all such improvements, including the aforementioned discrimination ban on federal contractors.

Of course, whether he’ll do so is an open question. With regard to workplace protections in particular, American public opinion overwhelmingly supports such guarantees. While just 59 percent of national respondents told the Gallup Organization in 1982 that they thought homosexuals should have equal rights in terms of job opportunities, the proportion who supported equality in the workplace had increased to 89 percent by as long ago as 2006. Hence, Trump, who came into office with the lowest public approval ratings of any president in the modern era, would threaten alienating even more Americans by gratuitously countermanding Obama Administration benchmarks of LGBT-rights progress.

Indeed, on January 30th, the White House announced that the President would not disturb Obama’s 2014 directive prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees or job applicants. But just two days later, on February 1st, a draft executive order circulated within the Trump Administration which would have provided broad protections for employers and service providers that, based on religious objections, deny jobs or services to LGBT workers or customers, similar to the bill Vice President Pence signed into law as governor of Indiana. By February 4th, the New York Times reported that Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner were instrumental in scuttling the proposed “religious-liberty”-based rollback of queer rights. Hence, what the new president ostensibly gave on a Monday with one hand – preserving Obama’s executive order of three years ago – he almost took away with the other hand on Wednesday, but for the intervention of social liberals within the President’s immediate family.

If Trump himself has any genuinely reliable political instincts, he’s likely not to tamper extensively with rights policies affecting queer people. In a January 12thNew York Times profile, for instance, Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist who was a member of the Trump transition team and who is openly gay, averred that “Trump is very good on gay rights. I don’t think he will reverse anything.”

Even diehard right-wing congressional Republicans have seen the political writing on the wall with regard to marriage equality, which the Pew Research Center found 55 percent of Americans supported in 2016. After the U.S. Supreme Court nationalized the right of same-sex couples to marry in Obergefell v. Hodges of June 2015, no organized effort emerged in the GOP-dominated 114th Congress to amend the Constitution for the purpose of toppling that judicial ruling. Although House Republicans threw abundant red meat to constituents by passing numerous symbolic repeals of the Affordable Care Act, GOP lawmakers didn’t even attempt one congressional vote to overturn Obergefell.

The venue in which President Trump may have the most consequential detrimental effects on the everyday lives of queer folk is in his judicial appointments, because federal courts will continue to address disputes affecting LGBT litigants. Last October, for example, the Supreme Court announced it would review whether a U.S. Department of Education regulation – requiring that “When a school elects to separate or treat students differently on the basis of sex . . . a school generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity” – appropriately implemented Title IX, a 1972 law banning discrimination “on the basis of sex” in schools receiving federal money. Also last October, the Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, in Chicago, granted an unusual discretionary rehearing by that full judicial bench on whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from or offers redress for discrimination based on sexual orientation, as held in a 2015 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decision.

Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (who died almost exactly a year ago), is likely to be as unsympathetic to queer litigants as his predecessor, who never voted in support of an LGBT-rights claim. Yet substituting Gorsuch for Scalia on the high tribunal would not immediately change its 5-to-4-vote equilibrium in favor of due process and equal protection for all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The real threat to the Supreme Court’s balance toward fairness for all would come in the event either Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (who turns 84 in March of this year) or Justice Anthony Kennedy (who will be 81 in July 2017) leaves office. A replacement of either of them by someone in the mold of Gorsuch, Scalia, or Justice Clarence Thomas could be disastrous to future LGBT-rights claims in the federal judicial arena.

With that real threat on the horizon, however, I don’t think there’s likely to be substantial retrenchment on constitutional rights already established by existing precedents such as Lawrence v. Texas (the 2003 invalidation of state consensual-sodomy statutes), United States v. Windsor (the 2013 upending of the federal Defense of Marriage Act), and Obergefell v. Hodges. The reasons for my optimism are several.

First, consider federal judicial voting trends on LGBT-rights claims. My 2003 book Gay Rights and American Law analyzed how federal and state appellate courts treated the civil rights claims of lesbians and gay men between 1981 and 2000 through an examination of 1,439 votes by 849 appellate judges in 398 decisions and opinions from 87 courts in all federal jurisdictions and 47 states. The volume’s concluding chapter made this observation:

Federal judges selected by Democratic presidents, compared with Republican appointees, positively determined an astonishing 40.5 percent of the probability “space” between complete success and utter failure of lesbian and gay rights claims in federal appellate courts. Among 45 federal cases in the study not influenced by controlling precedent, only 26.7 percent of 116 votes by judges nominated by Republican presidents were favorable to sexual minorities, while 60.2 percent of 83 votes by Democratic appointees supported homosexuals – a difference of 125 percent! Indeed, presidential party predicted case outcome far better than any other personal attribute [such as age, gender, race/ethnicity, or religious affiliation] of federal judges in the investigation.

My 2016 book America’s War on Same-Sex Couples and Their Families – And How the Courts Rescued Them – which counted the votes between 2013 and 2015 in all lower-federal-court decisions adjudicating disputes over the constitutionality of state same-sex-marriage bans – revealed a remarkable change from what the 2003 volume found:

[T]he (admittedly smaller) sample of federal judges in this survey had even more astonishing voting patterns based on the political party of the presidents who selected them. Among both the sixteen district-court and nine circuit-court judges who were Democratic appointees, 100 percent of their votes – every last one – went in favor of marriage equality, representing a 66-percent improvement over the 1981-2000 Democratic-nominee voting record. Whereas, with regard to the jurists chosen by Republican presidents, four of their six circuit votes, or 67 percent, went against the right of civil marriage for same-sex pairs, while just one of five trial-court decisions, or 20 percent, did so. In total, six of eleven Republican appointees, or 55 percent, embraced marriage equality. Hence, although the gap established by presidential party wasn’t as dramatic in 2013-2014 – at 82 percent – as it was in the last two decades of the twentieth century (125 percent), the disparity, nonetheless, was still substantial.

In other words, the rates at which both Democratic and Republican appointees to the federal bench backed the civil rights claims of LGBT litigants increased steadily, even dramatically, over time. The frequency of support from judges selected by Democratic presidents rose by two-thirds (from 60.2 percent to 100 percent) between 1981-2000 and 2013-2015, while the increment for Republican designees was more than double (from 26.7 percent to 54.5 percent). These enhanced levels of judicial protection mirrored the kinds of advances in American public opinion regarding queer rights referenced earlier. Accordingly, the voting trends of both Democratic and Republican nominees generally bode well for continued support of LGBT rights in federal court.

A second reason for optimism that landmark decisions like Lawrence, Windsor, and Obergefell won’t be jeopardized by Trump judicial appointments is the legal doctrine of stare decisis, which is central to traditional jurisprudential explanations of decision making in American courts. In brief, adjudged cases furnish examples or authority for analogous future fact patterns or similar questions of law. Adherence to established precedents provides security and certainty, mandating established legal principles under which rights may accrue, be recognized, and be followed. Stare decisis facilitates a predictable legal system.

From a macro perspective, the U.S. Supreme Court’s own commitment to honoring precedents is revealed by the statistic that less than .002 percent of all of the high court’s opinions have ever been formally overruled by the Court itself. At the micro level, consider the remarkable endurance of Roe v. Wade. I remember well, for instance, how, after the April 1992 oral argument in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, all well-informed court observers predicted that, as a result of President George H. W. Bush’s replacement of the liberal lions William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall with David Souter and Clarence Thomas, Roe v. Wade would finally be toast. But, just as the New York Times forecasted with 84-percent certainty last November 7th that Hillary Clinton would be the 45th president, the 1992 conventional wisdom was also wrong. Roe’s core holding prevailed as a precedent in Casey.

Equally important as these general observations about the crucial role of stare decisis in the American legal system, Chapter 5 of Gay Rights and American Law conducted an empirical test of the impact of precedent in the LGBT-rights context. My investigation first identified the votes of judges who were likely predisposed (because of their age, gender, party affiliation, race/ethnicity, religion, and a variety of other factors) not to support the legal claims of queer litigants. The study then compared the computed probabilities of how jurists would vote with their actual behavior deciding cases. I discovered that over one-third (36.4 percent) of the judges on courts of last resort (both state supreme courts and the U.S. Supreme Court) who were otherwise inclined not to endorse LGBT rights nonetheless did so when a binding precedent in favor of such claims was involved in the adjudication. And the proportion of conservative-minded judges on intermediate appellate courts (such as the U.S. Courts of Appeals) who followed relevant liberal precedents was especially striking: 78.6 percent.

Hence, there are good reasons for cautious optimism that President Donald Trump’s impact on LGBT rights in the United States won’t be significantly detrimental.

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