The Corner

Local Cops & Immigration Law

My colleague Jessica Vaughan, one of the leading authorities on the 287(g) program (that trains local cops in immigration law), wrote me to respond to Richard Nadler’s critique of the program:


There are quite a few faults in Richard Nadler’s analysis of 287(g).  First of all, the purpose of 287(g) is not to facilitate cooperation between ICE and the local law enforcement agencies.  It’s to allow the locals to do what ICE cannot or will not do — that’s why it’s called Delegation of Authority.

Second, there are no “notorious amnesty-providing cities” using 287(g), if by that he means sancturary jurisdictions.  Nadler says that Los Angeles PD has 287(g); that’s wrong — it’s the LA County Sheriff’s Office.  Big difference.  LASO uses it at the jails.  City of Phoenix PD, which is not really what I would call a sanctuary city, joined last year under pressure from rank and file police officers, influenced by the shooting of Phoenix Officer Nick Erfle by an illegal alien with priors, and in recognition that the criminal alien problem there is just too huge for ICE. 

Just to set the record straight, cops with 287(g) authority don’t deport anyone; that’s like saying cops “convict” someone, when really they simply arrest them.  287(g) cops have the authority to charge aliens; the immigration judge and ICE deport them.  And I would challenge Nadler to find a single alien charged with immigration violations by a 287(g)-trained cop who was charged simply for being here illegally.  All of these jurisdictions have policies that say they go after only those charged or taken into custody for other offenses and who are discovered to be removable.  Not for “illegal presence alone.”  It just doesn’t work that way.  Even in Maricopa County.  And even if they did charge people merely for being illegal, so what — under the law, those people are removable.

You are absolutely right about ICE discouraging people to apply.  ICE managers, including Roland Jones, the program administrator, have been saying for some time that ICE only wants certain kinds of MOUs [Memorandums of Understanding — MK] and that not every jurisdiction that wants the program will be allowed to get the program.  That’s not what I would call a hard sell.  That is why ICE created the ICE-ACCESS gimmick, including the jail screening surges — to try to satisfy some of the jurisdictions that wanted 287(g).  They do not want to pay for all the detention for these people, as you said.  According to executive officers in several jurisdictions, including South Carolina and Illinois, ICE has been giving some LEAs [law-enforcement agencies — MK] the runaround for years.  One sheriff I spoke with said, “You should have seen [the ICE managers] start sweating bullets when we told them how many illegal aliens we had in our jails.”

The so-called simple on-line form Nadler refers to is just an informational request, not an application.  The real application process is much more complicated.  The agencies who want to apply have to have endless meetings with ICE SAC office agents, ICE lawyers, ICE HQ representatives, an audit of their jails to see how many illegals are there, an audit of their transport capacity, multiple rounds of negotiating the MOU, bring the witches broom, etc etc.  The only reimbursement I can think of is that ICE pays them for the jail space once the arrested alien has a detainer or immigration charges, and is officially in ICE custody.  I don’t know why Nadler calls that “generous.”  It’s just a per diem cost for the inmate.

ICE certainly could approve a great many more applicants.  Congress gave them the money.  Instead, they are choosing to do a silly and politically motivated re-write of the guidelines, under the guise of re-focusing on “serious criminals” and implementing oversight that was never required or expected by Congress.  “Only” 42 pending?  That’s a lot, considering there are only 67 or so in the entire program.  And some of these jurisdictions have been waiting well over a year for ICE.

Actually, 950 officers have been trained.  This is a lot cheaper than adding 950 ICE agents.

As for the nonsense in Nadler’s last sentence, 287(g) is a voluntary program, and while some departments may be cool to it, others are pretty hot on it, evidenced by the waiting list and the need for ICE-ACCESS.  287(g) does not “obstruct the removal of bad guys”; in fact, 287(g) increases the removal of bad guys.  According to statistics I obtained from ICE in a FOIA request, the total number of 287(g) arrests last year was about 20% of all ICE criminal alien removals that year.  If that’s not advancing criminal alien removals, I don’t know what is.


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