Obama Administration Weakens Immigration Enforcement

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on October 20, 2009

The Obama administration continues to roll back the enforcement measures that the Bush administration had stepped up following its 2007 defeat on mass amnesty. The latest softening on enforcement of the laws on the books against illegal immigration comes in strictures placed on the effective and promising 287(g) program. This program is extraordinary in force multiplication, cost-effectiveness, and real results. Administrative agencies don't like it because it requires them actually to be responsive to state and local police and to local priorities. Thus, the changes force local police in this program to adopt federal enforcement priorities.

In a forthcoming Backgrounder, Jessica Vaughan and I detail the great benefits of this program. Congress created this program in 1996 to enable state and local law enforcement to better use immigration offenses in getting foreign lawbreakers off American streets. The 287(g) program was finally taking off when administrations changed. But congressional Democrats have targeted this program since they took the majority in 2006. Appropriators, oversight committees, the Government Accountability Office, and a grating chorus of grievance lobbies have attacked the program and participating law enforcement agencies.

Their tactic of putting a human face on this, couching it as a problem, attacks the famous Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He's the one who makes county prisoners wear pink, sleep in tents, and eat baloney sandwiches. Enforcement opponents have cried "racial profiling" and made other allegations against the program. The GAO earlier this year trumped up wafer-thin allegations and innuendo that 287(g) agencies weren't focused on "serious" crimes (our Backgrounder exposes how bogus that argument is). The naked truth is that the new administration and Congress are undermining one of the proven successes in immigration enforcement. But bottom line, state and local governments possess inherent authority under the Constitution to assist in the enforcement of federal laws, including immigration laws. So, 287(g) merely grants additional authority and formalizes cooperation between federal immigration authorities and state or local agencies. The fat lady hasn't sung just yet on immigration enforcement at the grassroots community level.