Controlling Illegal Immigration writes: WASHINGTON (October 27, 2009) – The 287(g) program was created by Congress in 1996 to enhance cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. The Obama administration has imposed new rules for the 287(g) program that unduly constrain the local partners and could allow more alien scofflaws identified by local agencies to remain here. But even with these changes, based on unsubstantiated criticism from ethnic and civil liberties groups, the 287(g) program remains an effective tool in immigration law enforcement and local crime-fighting.

A new report from the Center for Immigration Studies examines in detail the 287(g) program’s history, status, and results, concluding with a number of recommendations for improvement. The report, “The 287(g) Program: Protecting Home Towns and Homeland,” by Jessica Vaughan and James R. Edwards, Jr., is based on interviews with participating local law enforcement agencies (LEAs), statistics and reports provided by local LEAs, and data provided by ICE through a FOIA request.

Among the findings:

  • About 1,000 officers from 67 law enforcement agencies have been trained and participate in the program. With 9 new agencies joining and a handful of agencies dropping out in 2009, the total number of participating agencies as of October 2009 is 73.
  • 287(g) officers lodged immigration charges on more than 81,000 illegal or criminal aliens between January 2006 and November 2008, according to data provided by ICE.
  • In 2008, the number of 287(g) arrests (45,368) was equal to one-fifth of all criminal aliens identified by ICE in prisons and jails nationwide that year (221,085). The program has flagged a large number of known serious and/or violent offenders, as well as some low-level offenders still at the bottom of the criminal behavior escalator. Illegal aliens targeted by the program have been identified as a result of involvement in local law-breaking in addition to immigration law-breaking.
  • While 287(g) agencies use the authority mainly to identify and process illegal aliens who have committed additional crimes, Congress never intended the program to be limited to that use. Lawmakers intended for local agency partners to use the authority for local law enforcement priorities and according to local needs, which may or may not be the same as federal priorities.
  • Participating agencies credit the 287(g) program as a major factor in reduced local crime rates, smaller inmate populations, and lower criminal justice costs.
  • 287(g) is cost-effective — much less expensive than other criminal alien identification programs such as Secure Communities and Fugitive Operations. For example, in 2008 ICE spent $219 million to remove 34,000 fugitive aliens (mostly criminals). In 2008, ICE was given $40 million for 287(g), which produced more than 45,000 arrests of aliens who were involved in state and local crimes. In Harris County, Texas, the billion-dollar ICE Secure Communities interoperability program found about 1,718 removable aliens in its first six months beginning late in 2008; meanwhile the locally paid 287(g) officers in the same jail system charged about 5,000 criminal aliens over the same time period.
  • 287(g) is a force multiplier. In 2008, the Colorado state 287(g) unit alone made 777 immigration arrests. In that same year the entire ICE investigations office based in Denver, which covers all of Colorado and several other states, made a total of 1,594 arrests. In Maricopa County, Arizona, the local ICE detention and removal manager supervises five ICE deportation agents, who are supplemented by 64 additional locally paid county jail 287(g) officers who also identify and process criminal aliens.
  • The largest number of agreements have been signed for 287(g) programs in correctional institutions, such as county jails or state prisons. These programs were responsible for 91 percent of the 287(g) arrests over the period we studied.
  • The task force/investigative 287(g) programs provide equally important crime-fighting benefits and are a useful tool to address such illegal immigration-related crime problems as alien smuggling, drugs, street gangs, and identity theft.
  • The Colorado, Arizona, and Alabama 287(g) programs have boosted ICE efforts to combat alien smuggling, which has been neglected since the agency’s formation.
  • Notwithstanding allegations from immigrant and civil liberties advocates, there have been no confirmed instances of racial profiling, discrimination, or other abuse of authority under the 287(g) program. There is no evidence whatsoever of a “chilling effect” on crime reporting in the 287(g) jurisdictions.
  • The waiting list for 287(g) is long — reportedly one to three years from the time of request to join until implementation.
  • The biggest obstacle to improving and expanding the 287(g) program is the lack of funding for bed space to detain illegal aliens discovered by local agencies to have committed crimes. As a result, ICE currently is removing fewer than half of the criminal aliens identified under 287(g). Several states have submitted proposals to ICE to help alleviate this problem, but ICE has not acted to increase funding for bed space, even as it claims to prioritize the removal of criminal aliens.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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