WASHINGTON - Controversial federal statute 287(g), an immigration policy that allows the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) to delegate local authorities to enforce federal immigration laws, is doing more to harm than to help communities, according to a new report from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI).
The report finds that a distressing number of local agencies pursue “universal” approaches to 287(g) enforcement, with law enforcement seeking to maximize overall immigration detention instead of targeting people who pose a legitimate threat to public safety. It further states that “universal enforcement gives rise to substantial negative community impacts and downstream federal detention and removal costs.” These universal models are heavily concentrated in the Southwest -- where a backlash and political pressures against a marked increase in the immigrant population may also influence local enforcement priorities, the report says. Half of those detained under the 287(g) program are immigrants who have committed misdemeanors, such as traffic offenses, rather than serious felonies.
Civil rights organizations have consistently opposed 287(g) because it lacks the cohesive federal regulatory support necessary to prevent racial profiling and other civil rights violations. The new MPI report goes a step further, comparing ICE to “a rogue police force” as the statute’s national objectives -- deporting criminals -- are increasingly ignored by state and local authorities.
The report recommends reform of ICE’s implementation of 287(g), including discontinuing agreements in areas with a history of racial profiling and other civil rights violations, and encouraging a real dialogue between ICE field offices and communities through meaningful steering committees. Additionally, state and local law enforcement under 287(g) agreements should detain noncitizens only if they have committed serious crimes rather than civil infractions.