For the second year in a row, the House of Representatives has taken a stand against the Administration’s attempts to undermine an important and effective immigration enforcement program known as 287(g), by seeking to restore funding for the program slashed by the Obama Administration.
First created in 1996, the 287(g) program allows state and local law enforcement entities to enter into agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to “act in the stead of ICE agents by processing illegal aliens for removal.”
Before the program, a state or local law enforcement officer who apprehended a suspected illegal immigrant would have to call ICE and then wait for ICE officials to pick up the individual. In practice, immigration laws were not enforced, and most people found to be here illegally went free.
From a numbers perspective alone, the program’s benefits are clear. In the first seven years after ICE started using the authorities under Section 287(g), more than 60 state and local agencies entered into agreements resulting in roughly 1,000 law enforcement officers being “deputized” to enforce federal immigration law.
Even more important, over 120,000 individuals were identified as illegal immigrants under the program, just in the period between January 2006 and July 2009 alone. So to, with fewer than 6,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, the ability under the program to work with 1 million state and local law enforcement officers to help enforce federal immigration law makes a lot of sense as a valuable force multiplier.
Yet, despite the clear benefits, the Obama Administration has actively tried to do away with the program, by abolishing its funding. Indeed, last year President Obama sought to slash the program by $17 million, or 25 percent. The reasoning:
The Secure Communities screening process is more consistent, efficient and cost effective in identifying and removing criminal and other priority aliens. To implement this reduction in 2013, ICE will begin by discontinuing the least productive 287(g) task force agreements in those jurisdictions where Secure Communities is already in place and will also suspend consideration of any requests for new 287(g) task forces.
In other words, unlike the Secure Communities program, 287(g) is not consistent with the Administration’s priorities to focus detention and deportation largely on criminal aliens.
This year, the Administration seems to be trying even harder, calling for cuts of nearly $44 million from the program. Once again the Administration is claiming that other programs and models like Secure Communities “have proven to be more efficient and effective in identifying and removing criminal and other priority aliens than the task force officer model agreements.”
Secure Communities is a great example of how immigration enforcement can help state and local law enforcement. However, it is only one component needed in a robust suite of immigration enforcement measures, a suite which ought to continue to include 287(g). Thankfully, the House sees the bigger picture.