by Moses Apsan, Esq.
A recent report issued by the Department of Homeland Security’s, inspector general, demonstrates how (Congress’ failure to act on immigration reform, has resulted in anti- immigrant police running amuck throughout the country). The inspector general report describes a program known as 287(g), after the clause in immigration law that established it. Under this program state and local law enforcement entity can enter into a partnership with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and receive delegated authority for immigration enforcement within their jurisdictions. Enforcement agencies under this program are permitted to question immigrants about their legal status and detain them for possible deportation. Currently there are some 60 county and state police forces that have partnered up with ICE. Officials hoped it would be a "force multiplier" for ICE, in its effort to stop illegal immigrants who posed a threat to public safety.
The inspector general report concludes that there are big concerns with the program. In some cases, the local police’s training were so insufficient, that some don’t know how to process cases or who they should be targeting. Some are hunting down non-criminal immigrants, in disregard to the intent of the program. In one case described in the New York Times, an illegal immigrant who was the victim of a car crash was arrested.
According to the report, the program is poorly supervised as unsystematically administered, with local enforcement agencies detaining immigrants with almost no oversight from federal authorities.
“In the absence of consistent supervision over immigration enforcement activities,” the report said, “there is no assurance that the program is achieving its goals.”
High-ranking officials at ICE have repeatedly stated that the program’s priority is to deport immigrants with serious criminal records. As it turns out the program lacks a way to determine whether immigrants detained by local enforcement officials are serious offenders or not.
The report says that ICE cannot be certain “that resources are being appropriately targeted” toward immigrants “who pose the greatest risk to public safety and community.”
Additionally, the Inspector General found the program does not have adequate protections against civil rights abuses such as racial profiling. The report said local police officers have misused the program by targeting undocumented immigrants who have been arrested for minor offenses.
Critics of the program say many immigrants, out of fear of deportation, will no longer call the local police for help. Laura Murphy of the American Civil Liberties Union said, “The 287(g) program, as this latest report confirms, all but abandons the constitutional guarantees of fair treatment and due process, and encourages racial and ethnic profiling."
"In the rush to engage state and local law enforcement on federal immigration matters, ICE has created a program that lacks oversight, undermines community relations and breeds mistrust," said Mary Giovagnoli, director of the Immigration Policy Center, the research arm of the American Immigration Council.
Just take a look at what has happened in Phoenix Arizona. Joe Arpaio, the Maricopa County Sheriff' was part of the 287(g) program, however after repeated violations of the program’s mandate, i.e. arresting and sending illegal immigrant to ICE for deportation no matter how minor the crime, he was thrown off the program. Instead of accepting the government’s rejection of his 287(g) agreement, he arrogantly defied U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement by continuing his own self styled “wild west” roundup of illegal immigrants. In a quote from The Wall Street Journal he said, “We have the inherent right to enforce federal immigration law. If Washington doesn't like it, I recommend they change the laws." What has happened in Maricopa County is the direct result of President Obama and our Congress’s failure to pass a comprehensive immigration reform law.
The Inspector General’s report was prepared following six-months of field inspections. ICE officials, in July, had sufficient knowledge of the growing problems in the program and requested that all participating law enforcement agencies execute new agreements clarifying its goals.
Richard Rocha, a spokesman for ICE stated that “Since the audit was conducted, ICE has fundamentally reformed the program, strengthening public safety and ensuring consistency in immigration enforcement across the country by prioritizing the arrest and detention of criminal aliens, fulfilling many of the report’s recommendations.”
In the report, the inspector general acknowledged many of the program’s improvements but went on to say that many of the most serious problems are yet to be resolved.