ICE’s local partnerships program benefits everyone but dangerous criminals


August 28, 2020

By Tom Homan

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “287(g) program” — which allows ICE to partner with local law enforcement — is under attack across the country. Anti-borders activists continue to protest, demanding that sheriffs end their programs — and calling for them to resign if they don’t. Many Democrats in Congress attack the program and ask federal agencies to review the program for malfeasance. The talking points from the left about the program are simply mistruths — because opponents don’t want anyone, including ICE, to enforce the immigration laws of this country. It is time to review the facts and set the record straight.

The 287(g) program enhances the safety and security of communities by creating partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies to identify and remove criminal aliens who are amenable to removal from the United States. They identify someone who is in the country in violation of federal law and who has been arrested and booked into a jail for a criminal offense. The state or local law enforcement agency arrested them and decided to book them into a jail cell because they were either a danger to the public or a flight risk. ICE had nothing to do with that arrest. Law enforcement made an independent decision to arrest and book the criminal and are simply doing what they have done for decades: enforcing the law and protecting the community.

The 287(g) program was born when the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 added Section 287(g), to the Immigration and Nationality Act. This section of law authorizes the director of ICE to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies that permit designated officers to perform limited immigration law enforcement functions. Agreements under section 287(g) require the local law enforcement officers to receive appropriate training and to function under the supervision of ICE officers.

This is a clear example of law enforcement working with other law enforcement to take criminals off the street, and it works very well. 

The program’s benefits to community safety are clear. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, the 287(g) program encountered approximately 775 aliens convicted for assault, 704 convicted for dangerous drugs, 145 convicted for sex offenses/assaults, 173 convicted for obstructing police, 110 convicted for weapon offenses, and 21 convicted for homicide. Thanks to 287(g) agreements, those public safety threats are no longer walking the streets in those communities — in fact, they are not even in this country anymore.

In addition to congressional scrutiny, the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties also reviews the program for wrongdoing. With all this oversight, the program must be run very well because none of these oversight agencies have demanded any change of substance. ICE ended a total of two agreements while I was there on their own because they believed the county was not operating within the guidelines and may have been profiling. This is a clear indicator that ICE is good at self-policing their 287(g) agreements.

The program is also “color-blind,” something the anti-immigration enforcement lobby chooses to ignore. Anyone, including myself, who is arrested and booked into a jail that has the 287(g) program will be screened. The screening is not based on sex, race, nationality, creed; everyone who is booked into a jail goes through the same process.

I have often said that more officers in a jail setting means fewer officers in the community. It means fewer collateral arrests also. If ICE cannot arrest the criminal alien in the safety of a jail, they are forced into the community where they will find others — others who were not on ICE’s radar and who will now be arrested. Most collateral arrests happen in sanctuary cities because ICE has no cooperation from local law enforcement. Politicians who claim to support sanctuary policies in the name of protecting aliens are actually exposing them to a higher chance of deportation.

The left cannot keep demanding that ICE concentrate operations on criminals and public safety threats but not allow ICE in the jails. They cannot have it both ways. There is no prerequisite in our immigration law that requires an illegal alien must commit another crime, in addition to entering the U.S. illegally, to be targeted for arrest.

Also, when an illegal alien public safety threat gets released back into the public, he is likely to re-offend in the very community in which he lives: the immigrant community. Based on the latest recidivism rates, how does that protect the immigrant community? It doesn’t.

The immigrant community does not want child predators and drug dealers in their midst, either. The victims and witnesses to these crimes will not likely come forward if they think the criminal will just be released back into the community to look for revenge.

The 287(g) program makes sense, and anyone who examines the facts will have a tough time arguing the opposite.

You can’t change the facts and you can’t change the data. Defending the 287(g) program where you live is a meaningful way to protect the safety of you, your family and your community.  

Tom Homan is the former Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and a senior fellow at the Immigration Reform Law Institute.

Also published at: Tom Homan, ICE’s local partnerships program benefits everyone but dangerous criminals, The Hill, August 28, 2020.

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