New Report: 287(g) Works

By Jessica M. Vaughan on February 1, 2011

A new report on the 287(g) program provides a wealth of information illustrating the tremendous public safety value and positive community impact of this initiative. It corroborates many of the findings of our 2009 report, "The 287(g) Program: Protecting Home Town and Homeland".

This is doubly remarkable considering that the new report was issued by the Migration Policy Institute, the Obama administration's pro-amnesty think tank.

The report presents ICE data on the number of arrested aliens who were subsequently processed for immigration violations by local 287(g) officers – about 40,000 in 2010. This represents 10 to 20 percent of ICE's criminal alien workload for the year, meaning the local agencies are providing a big subsidy to ICE and increasing its productivity.

287g report
Most significantly, the researchers found "measurable" and "substantial" drops in the non-citizen Hispanic populations in several of the jurisdictions singled out for detailed analysis, leaving them to conclude that the 287(g) program succeeded in causing illegal immigrants to leave these areas: "Frederick County, Md. experienced a 61 percent drop in its Hispanic noncitizen population after it adopted the 287(g) program, and Prince William County, Va. witnessed a 23 percent decline, while neighboring counties . . . experienced an increase," though some rebounds were observed later.

And, while community tensions were sometimes greater in 287(g) jurisdictions, the researchers found no evidence of racial profiling, abuse of authority, decreased crime reporting from immigrants, or other problems that program critics have alleged. They surveyed about 100 people in seven 287(g) jurisdictions, and some of these respondents reported concerns about racial profiling. The MPI researchers said these allegations could not be investigated because of "data limitations"; however, the Department of Justice is said to have investigated a fair number of these complaints and found no civil rights violations.

It emphasized that these problems could be avoided through robust community outreach, as practiced in Prince William County, which operates one of the more comprehensive, or "universal", 287(g) programs in the nation. Of course the very presence of large numbers of illegal aliens also causes community tension, and this is often compounded by the activities of local advocacy groups that protest and seek to obstruct immigration law enforcement.

Despite, or perhaps because of, these findings, the report's top recommendation is that ICE should scale back the program, and permit local officers to process only the most "serious" criminal aliens, specifically those who have been convicted of felonies.

This recommendation is likely to fall flat, because ICE is still smarting from highly publicized tragedies in the Washington, D.C., area caused by low-level illegal alien offenders who were released instead of detained on the path to removal. Most recently, the Washington Post revealed that Secure Communities, ICE's main criminal alien identification program, may have failed to flag a previously deported MS-13 gang member who was arrested in Loudoun County, Va., for public drunkenness, released (perhaps too quickly) by the local sheriff's office, and then two months later is alleged to have raped the 8-year old daughter of his girlfriend.

The researchers found that ICE was closely supervising all the local agencies they studied, but still were troubled by the fact that, consistent with congressional intent, ICE was actually allowing local law enforcement agencies to determine the priorities for the program. The authors express deep concern that jurisdictions in the Southeast, which have experienced huge influxes of illegal immigrants, were enforcing immigration laws the most universally and comprehensively, and recommended that these programs be discontinued.

MPI recommends that someone conduct a cost-benefit analysis of 287(g) vs. Secure Communities. This would be a useful exercise, which I once took a quick stab at, and found that 287(g) provides much more bang for the buck, because the local agencies do most of the work with their own staff. They are willing to do this because 287(g) helps rid their communities of illegal aliens who commit other major and minor crimes, which saves on criminal justice costs, not to mention social services, education and health care costs, and improves the quality of life for all.