Last week, ICE quietly announced that it was terminating 32 local enforcement task force partnerships, known as 287(g) agreements, some of which have been operating successfully for as long as ten years. This follows the revocation earlier this year of seven other task force agreements in Arizona. ICE has offered no specific reasons for the cancellation of these agreements, other than that it thinks it can do a better job without its local partners.
Several weeks ago, in a meeting at ICE headquarters, I asked Gary Mead, who is in charge of ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations, and several of his managers who are responsible for these and other programs that focus on the removal of criminal aliens, if they could share the analysis they did to arrive at their conclusion that other ICE programs are more effective and efficient than these local partnerships. How is it that a program that identifies twice as many criminal aliens in one-fourth the time is less effective, I asked. How is it that a program that utilizes locally-paid officers to identify and process criminal aliens they encounter during the course of their routine duties in their own territory can be more expensive than using federal agents assigned to a distant ICE Field Office to travel to these jurisdictions to do the same task?
Mead replied that ICE had not completed an actual cost-benefit or empirical analysis to determine if the 287(g) programs were any more or less expensive or efficient than other enforcement programs such as Secure Communities. I've done one, published here, which is admittedly quick and dirty, but it doesn't take high-level math to see that ICE cannot credibly claim to be saving any money, increasing removals of criminal aliens, or becoming any more effective by cancelling these partnerships.
Mead went on to say that he didn't think it was "appropriate" for local law enforcement agencies to be checking the immigration status of people they arrest. This should be up to the federal government, he said. (In fact it was the federal government, specifically Congress, that created these partnerships.)
No wonder the National Sheriffs Association sent a letter to ICE earlier this year expressing deep concerns from sheriffs about ICE's hostility to working with them:
Is ICE aware of the betrayal felt by its local law enforcement partners in Arizona? Does ICE appreciate the ripple effect of its singular action in Arizona [to cancel the 287(g) task forces] on law enforcement trust nationwide? . . .
Local law enforcement perceives its relationship with ICE as increasingly unilateral and its partnership with DHS/ICE as deteriorating. . .
ICE's unreassuring responses can be viewed here.
It's true that the 287(g) task forces do not produce as many arrests as the 287(g) jail partnerships, most of which will probably be allowed to continue. Few statistics are available on task force arrests, unless published by the local law enforcement agency, a few of which we reported in our 2009 study of the 287(g) program.
But these arrangements have made a significant contribution to public safety and immigration enforcement in their local areas. ICE used to post examples of 287(g) program success stories on its web site; but earlier this year, while being grilled at a congressional hearing, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano angrily ordered ICE staff to remove these examples, so as to avoid any positive impressions about the program. Ironically, when Napolitano was governor of Arizona, she was instrumental in obtaining federal approval for bringing 287(g) partnerships to her state, citing concerns about the large number of illegal aliens apprehended by her local officers on traffic stops, and the strain these criminal aliens is placed on local law enforcement.
Since ICE no longer shares the good news on 287(g) task forces, I will. These are some of the programs that ICE terminated:
- A Colorado State Patrol unit dedicated to apprehending and investigating alien and drug smugglers operating on Colorado highways, which made more than 2,000 arrests and resulted in a steep drop in the number of highway fatalities.
- A Florida national security and terrorism investigative unit that arrested non-citizens caught surveilling critical infrastructure targets and working in airports and seaports.
- A Frederick County, Md., unit that arrested drunk and unlicensed drivers, transnational gang members, and other serious offenders.
- A Collier County, Fla., task force whose 287(g) training prevented the release and escape of a man who murdered his 8-month old daughter, also wanted for child rape and firearms offenses (and hundreds of other non-citizen offenders).
- A Beaufort County, S.C., task force focused on gang members, identity fraud rings, and illegal employment.
- An Alabama unit dedicated to investigating identity fraud at the state motor vehicle agency.
- A Georgia state patrol unit focused on alien smuggling.
What is so inappropriate, to use Gary Mead's term, about these activities? Who will do this work now? ICE managers would not say if they plan to hire more ICE agents to pick up the slack. Meanwhile, they complain of the lack of sufficient resources that necessitate catch and release policies and a focus on the "worst of the worst" criminal aliens, which leaves a lot of the worst on the streets.
With this move ICE may have warmed the hearts of the grievance groups who oppose the 287(g) program, but it also has further aggravated many of its local law enforcement partners and demonstrated to lawmakers and the public that it is not interested in more effective or efficient immigration law enforcement.