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Immigrant Threat or Institutional Context? Examining Police Agency and County Context and the Implementation of the 287(g) Program

NCJ Number
Sociological Quarterly Volume: 65 Issue: 3 Dated: July 2024 Pages: 357-379
Date Published
July 2024
23 pages

In this article, the authors review the origins of 287(g) and summarize key theoretical arguments that frame how certain attributes of law enforcement agencies and their corresponding counties may have been instrumental to 287(g) adoption, they then describe the data and methods employed in the study, and conclude with a discussion of the study’s key empirical, theoretical, and policy implications.


During the early 2000s, the U.S. government began to partner with local law enforcement agencies for assistance with the enforcement of immigration laws. Participation in the voluntary 287(g) program by law enforcement agencies was an important early iteration of this new strategy. Although relatively few agencies adopted 287(g), its implementation was a critical turning point in the nation’s approach to immigration enforcement and has been linked to a wide range of negative consequences for Latinos, including higher levels of violent victimization, and decreases in police trust. This study advances knowledge about the factors associated with 287(g) program adoption during the late 2000s. The authors examined the role of agency ethnoracial diversity and fiscal capacity and several theoretically relevant indicators of the broader county context. Based on a sample of 880 law enforcement agencies located in 233 counties, rare event logistic regression models indicate that the strongest predictors of 287(g) adoption were the share of county population estimated to be undocumented immigrants, the degree of support for the Republican Presidential candidate, and the relative unemployment of Hispanic and non-Hispanic White residents. Overall, the results suggest that 287(g) was primarily a political response to concerns about the potential threats associated with undocumented immigration. (Published Abstracts Provided)

Date Published: July 1, 2024