Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality act calls for a law enforcement partnership between State and Federal law enforcement agencies with respect to the performance of immigration officer functions by state officers and employees. Simply put, 287(g) delegates federal immigration enforcement authority to state and local agencies.
The Obama administration has announced the recent expansion of the scope of the 287(g), issuing standardized Memorandums of Agreement (MOAs) with 67 state and local law enforcement agencies to participate in 287(g) partnerships.
This has caused an uproar from immigration rights groups. Opponents of 287(g) argue that the law results in racial profiling and violations of due process, and lacks sufficient oversight.
Joanne Lin, ACLU Legislative Counsel, has responded to Obama’s announced expansion of 287(g) stating that:
“ICE’s announcement on 287(g) makes no mention of any oversight, monitoring, or accountability mechanisms to address racial profiling and other civil rights violations – and no commitment to address these very real problems. Instead, ICE has actually re-authorized agencies that have abused their authority, including the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Disregarding civil rights, breaking bonds between immigrant communities and the police and failing to intelligently prioritize enforcement will only make all of us worse off. ICE should terminate the program immediately.”
Omar Jadwat, staff attorney for the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project is likewise critical of the expansion of 287(g). He has stated that:
“The federal government’s decision to continue with the 287(g) program is shortsighted and disappointing, and signals a troubling unwillingness to grapple with the failings of our broken immigration enforcement system. However, we are encouraged by the decision of several agencies that previously had 287(g) agreements not to continue with the program, and we hope that ICE will ultimately adopt a similar position and end 287(g).”
Conversely, proponents of 287(g) cite to the fact that the program is credited for identifying more than 70,000 (since January 2006) individuals, mostly in jails, who are suspected of being in the country illegally.
Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) John Morton touts the benefits of 287(g) characterizing them as partnerships that improve public safety by prioritizing criminal aliens who are a threat to local communities, ensuring consistent and uniform policies and providing a force multiplier for ICE's immigration enforcement efforts across the country. He stated that:
"These new partnerships are an essential tool for law enforcement to identify and remove dangerous criminal aliens from local communities,” and that "Standardizing these agreements allows us to better use the resources and capabilities of our law enforcement partners, facilitates accountability and ensures that all participating jurisdictions are following uniform standards throughout the country."
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has also weighed in on the expansion of 287(g) stating that:
"These new agreements promote public safety by prioritizing the identification and removal of dangerous criminal aliens and ensure consistency and stronger federal oversight of state and local immigration law enforcement efforts across the nation. The rules set forth in these agreements will enhance our efforts to work together effectively with our local partners."
Arizona Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has used 287(g) as a sword, but has indicated that he doesn't need 287(g) to enforce federal immigration laws, and the press has taken notice:
What side of this issue are you on?