May 5, 2021
By Tom Homan
Anti-borders advocates and those who don’t want our immigration laws enforced have been pressuring sheriffs across the country to end their cooperative agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and they have been successful the past couple of years.
The reported Biden administration pick to be the next ICE director, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez of Houston’s Harris County, ended the program soon after he took office. The Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva promised to kick ICE out of his building and end cooperation if he was elected sheriff, and he kept that promise as soon as he stepped into the role. Something is very wrong with this brand of law enforcement.
These anti-borders advocates are now joined by congressional Democrats, who have recently asked the Biden administration to end a local police program that has successfully turned criminal illegal aliens over to ICE for arrest and deportation. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) have sent a letter to Biden’s Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, asking him to terminate the agency’s 287(g) agreements with local law enforcement agencies.
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.
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. The designated officers identify someone who is in the country in violation of federal law and has been arrested and held in jail for a criminal offense by a state or local law enforcement agency, entirely unrelated to ICE. They were jailed after arrest because they are either a danger to the public or a flight risk. Law enforcement made an independent decision to arrest and book the criminal and are simply doing what they have done for decades, enforce the law and protect the community. The system is “color-blind,” something the anti-immigration-enforcement folks choose to ignore and will not acknowledge. Anyone, including me, who gets arrested and booked into a jail that participates in the 287(g) program will be screened.
The state and local partners benefit from this arrangement because it reduces the number of criminal offenders released back into the community, which of course decreases the crime in that community from those who would otherwise choose to reoffend. Gang members, sex offenders, murderers, and other violent criminals are often identified and taken into ICE custody after serving their criminal sentences, thus being removed from a community for good.
I have often said that more officers in a jail setting means less officers in the community. Partnerships such as the 287(g) program mean fewer collateral arrests. If ICE agents cannot arrest criminal aliens in the safety of a jail, they are forced into the community to look for others. Most collateral arrests happen in sanctuary cities because ICE has no cooperation from local law enforcement. 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.
The immigrant community does not want child predators and drug dealers in their neighborhoods, either. When an illegal alien who is a public safety threat gets released back into the public, they are likely to reoffend in the very community where they likely live: the immigrant community. The immigrant victims and witnesses to these crimes will not likely come forward to help law enforcement if they think the criminal will just be released back into the community to look for revenge. Looking at the latest recidivism rates, I ask, how does that protect the immigrant community? It doesn’t.
In fiscal year 2019, the 287(g) program encountered approximately 775 aliens convicted for assault, 704 convicted for dangerous drugs, 145 convicted for sexual 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.
An elimination of 287(g) agreements would mean that law enforcement agencies in 26 states would be forced to no longer work with ICE. Biden has already gutted a number of interior immigration enforcement operations, which has resulted in the mass release of criminal illegal aliens back into our neighborhoods. Now his administration is doubling down on that dangerous policy. Though coming from an administration that fancies itself the champion of the little guy—the blue-collar worker, the illegal alien, the child living in poverty—the move to end 287(g) agreements is harmful to all of them.
Tom Homan is the former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and currently a senior fellow at the Immigration Reform Law Institute.
Also published at: Tom Homan, Congressional Democrats Move To Cripple ICE, The American Conservative, May 5, 2021.
Sign up for our email newsletter to stay up to date with immigration reform in the United States.
Attorneys United for a Secure America (AUSA) is a non-partisan affiliation of talented attorneys dedicated to pursuing cases that serve the national interest when it comes to immigration law.
If you are interested in joining the network, visit the AUSA website.