287(g): The Wages of Secure Communities Opposition

By Jessica M. Vaughan on September 28, 2011

If there is any ICE program the open-borders groups hate more than Secure Communities, it's 287(g). How ironic, then, that the result of their intense and hysterical campaign to derail Secure Communities in Massachusetts is the announcement on Wednesday that at least three county sheriffs have been approved and intend to launch 287(g) partnerships.

For the last two years, Gov. Deval Patrick has indulged these groups and blocked the implementation of Secure Communities in his state, citing concern that ICE would move to deport minor offenders like drunk drivers as well as murderers and rapists. But citizen activists in the state got organized and fought back with a campaign of public education and protest. They were backed up by many local law enforcement agencies, legislators, and municipal leaders, who publicly and privately pleaded with ICE to overrule the governor in the interest of public safety.

After a string of deaths caused by illegal aliens with multiple prior encounters with police and immigration (not to mention the drunk driving arrest of First Uncle Omar) ICE found itself painted into an uncomfortable corner. The sheriffs and the public clearly were not going to be satisfied with a promise to implement SC "by 2013". But there's no telling how many more tragedies ICE would have to take responsibility for in the meantime if they failed to step it up. Rather than take the obvious way out by simply activating SC either state-wide or in the counties that want it, as is their congressional mandate and authority, ICE offered 287(g). So instead of an immigration law enforcement Chevy, these counties are getting a Cadillac – all because ICE feels the need to accommodate a sanctuary governor.

This is a win for Massachusetts and a shot in the arm for the 287(g) program, which the Obama administration previously had been trying to starve and bully to death. Under this agreement, ICE provides designated local officers with advanced training in immigration law and enforcement practices and gives them direct access to ICE databases so that they can perform the functions of federal immigration agents according to priorities set by the locals (well, ICE doesn't really like that last part about the priorities, and neither do the open-borders groups, but that's how Congress set it up).

287(g) is less of a catch-and-release program than Secure Communities. Internal ICE statistics show that 86 percent of aliens encountered by 287(g) officers in 2010 were actually charged with immigration violations. In 2010, only 37 percent of aliens flagged by Secure Communities were charged with immigration violations.

The two programs are complementary, but far fewer illegal alien criminals slip between the cracks with 287(g). This is because 287(g) jail officers are trained to interview the foreign-born inmates and go beyond the automated biometric check; they also can bust those who have no previous encounters with DHS. A while back, I compared the results of SC and 287(g) in Harris County, Texas, one of the nation's largest counties (which includes Houston), and found that SC identified fewer than half of the number of criminal aliens arrested than were identified by 287(g). And it took longer to receive results through SC, because queries are routed to ICE's Law Enforcement Support Center, along with those from all over the country, and then to the local ICE office, which may or may not take action. In contrast, under 287(g) the local officers decide whether to pursue immigration charges on an arrested alien, under the supervision of local ICE agents.

287(g) is a lot cheaper, too. ICE has spent just over $100 million dollars for the entire life of the program, while Secure Communities costs about $150 million every year.

ICE HQ is no doubt patting itself on the back for finding a face-saving way to avoid expanding Secure Communities in Massachusetts. The local officers will be a major force multiplier and save ICE a lot of work, and people were starting to ask embarrassing questions about why there are so many illegal aliens who have been ordered deported more than once still roaming around the state. But there they go again, making that patchwork quilt of enforcement, with a little SC here, a little 287(g) there, a little sanctuary there. And ICE still gives us no reason to believe that they actually intend to complete the nationwide activation of Secure Communities by 2013.