• Jon B. Comstock


Updated: Jun 3


ACTION ITEM: Please consider calling Sheriff Sean Holloway at (479) 271-1009 and ask that he “not renew” the 287(g) Program.

Local Groups Urge Benton County to Terminate 287(g) Agreement

As a candidate for House District 96 of Benton County, I have become aware of many area local groups whose mission includes supporting friendly and diverse communities, who are asking the Benton County Sheriff to end the 287(g) program. Now, with the exception of Benton County and one other county in eastern Arkansas, not a single sheriff in Arkansas’ other 73 counties has opted to participate in this 100% voluntary program. Even Sheriff Helder of Washington County decided recently to discontinue his participation – citing the COVID-19 pandemic as one reason for doing so. When the judgement of every sheriff in the State but two is that participation is not advised, it is fair to question our County’s continued participation.

What is a 287(g) Agreement?

Normally, our local Sheriff’s Office does not have the authority to enforce federal immigration law. With the 287(g) agreement, the Sheriff can act as an immigration agent with regard to residents, even when the contact is over traffic violations and other minor offenses. Participation in the program is NOT required by any law. Importantly, it need not be renewed at its next renewal date of June 30, 2020 and may be terminated at any time.

Does Benton County’s participation serve stated purpose? No.

The stated purpose of Benton County’s 287(g) is “to enhance the safety and security of communities”. Certainly, that must mean communities in general – all of our neighbors are entitled to a Sheriff’s Office that makes them feel secure where they live. For me, a white citizen born in the United States, I feel “safe” when I pass a Deputy’s car on the road. For a variety of reasons related to 287(g), many in the Hispanic community do not feel that way.

Several reasons support immediately ending Benton County’s 287(g) program:

1. The Sheriff’s involvement in immigration enforcement undermines public safety by eroding trust between immigrant communities and our Sheriff’s Office – and causing unnecessary fear and anxiety for many. You and I may wish it weren’t that way, but my time with members particularly of the Hispanic community, persuade otherwise.

2. It increases the risk of an outbreak during the COVID-19 pandemic as county jails are recognized hotspots for the spread of coronavirus within local communities.

3. It contributes to a failure to fully participate in Census 2020, which NWA Business Council has reported may result in more than $185 million in lost funds over a 10-year period for Washington and Benton Counties.

4. It’s expensive to implement. A 2010 report from the Latino Migration Project at UNC Chapel Hill found: "The annual direct and indirect costs of the program in the State of Arkansas were an estimated $7.9 million.” (page 30).

While there can be an argument in support of 287(g) that is facially neutral, the facts on the ground “where the rubber meets the road” is that this program does not have as its lived consequence in Northwest Arkansas “to enhance the safety and security of [all of our] communities”.

© Jon Comstock  for Arkansas 2020

Paid for by Jon Comstock for Arkansas