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"287(g)" (Local Police Cooperation With Feds) Clarified
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November 20, 2007, 12:38 PM
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Presumably, most VDARE readers are enthusiastic about state and local police helping the overwhelmed feds enforce immigration laws. Such help is, potentially, an enormous force multiplier, since there are something like 800,000 state and local law officers nationwide, and there are only a few thousand federal employees doing interior (i.e. away from the borders) investigations and apprehensions for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). A well-publicized example of local-federal cooperation is that run by Sheriff Jim Pendergraph in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. (Pendergraph is moving on to become ICE`s first Executive Director of state and local coordination.)

Despite my own enthusiasm, I`ve long been confused as to what form or forms the cooperation can take. Does it only involve checking the immigration status of prisoners processed through local jails and state prisons? Or can state and local police also be force multipliers in the field, arresting illegal aliens simply for being illegal, without them being simultaneously detained for an additional (i.e. non-immigration) crime?

If you, too, are interested but confused, you may want to read the excellent State, Local Police Slowly Warming to Immigration Enforcement, by Eleanor Stables, published November 7, 2007 in CQPolitics, an offshoot of Congressional Quarterly.

Stables writes,

"A total of 597 officers in 34 state and local law enforcement agencies participate in what is known as the 287(g) program, named for the section of the Immigration and Nationality Act (PL 101-649) authorizing it.

"Of those 34, 26 joined up in fiscal 2007. They’re spread across 15 states. The program was authorized in 1996, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was the first to sign on in 2002.

[snip]

"Colorado State Patrol Master Trooper Ron Watkins said Colorado’s 22 state troopers with 287(g) authority focus on three major highways that are corridors for smuggling illegal immigrants.

"The officers make only probable cause stops, such as for speeding or driving while intoxicated. Before they had 287(g) authority, if an officer stopped a driver and found a car of suspected illegal immigrants he would sometimes have to wait hours for ICE to arrive and take over, Watkins said in an interview. That would prevent the officer from doing other work, and sometimes the officer would be called away and the illegal immigrants would be free to go, he said. Now the officers can put illegal immigrants in custody and begin the deportation process.

[snip]

"Maricopa County, Ariz., where Sheriff Joe Arpaio has made something of a name for himself as a tough crusader against illegal immigration, has 160 of the nation’s 597 officers with 287(g) training. One hundred of the county’s 900 deputy sheriffs, and 60 of a total 2,400 detention officers have 287(g) authority. Maricopa County officers have arrested 450 illegal immigrants found in their normal course of duty since the first 37 officers joined the program in March 2007."

Judging by that description of the Colorado 287(g) program, the officers apparently don`t stop people solely because they`re suspected of being illegal aliens. (Picking them out in moving traffic doesn`t strike me as likely, anyway.) But it also sounds as if "collateral" illegal aliens—e.g. passengers in a car stopped for another reason—are fair game for immigration-status inquiries by the detaining officer who has 287(g) training.

Stables`s article naturally quotes someone from the National Immigration Law Center propounding the familiar complaint that this sort of police work will shut off their information sources in "immigrant communities":

"Another common criticism of local law enforcement involvement in immigration efforts is that it `interferes with the ability of police to protect communities,` in Friedland’s words, because immigrants will be afraid to report crimes or that they have been witness to a crime in case they are asked their or their family’s immigration status. Programs directed at illegal immigrants tend to create fear in legal ones too, she said."
Stables queried Jessica Vaughn of the Center for Immigration Studies on this point, and Vaughan ably dispatched it, as you can read for yourself.

But I also asked Harald Martin, the since-retired Anaheim, CA police officer who was responsible for getting INS (and then ICE) to have a daily presence in Anaheim`s city jail starting in the late 1990s, for his response to this old chestnut. He wrote back:

"The primary purpose of any police department is to deter crime and enforce laws for the entire community. The notion that immigration laws should be ignored so that the illegal alien community will assist the police department when crimes against illegals take place is a red herring. It is unfortunate that many chiefs of police have fallen for such an illogical premise. An analogy would be to say that police departments need to ignore the crimes of Mafia members so that they can fight organized crime. It makes no sense.

"We know that enforcement of immigration laws works, and it is being proven in local and state jurisdictions across the country. Since illegals leave the jurisdiction that enforces immigration law, we come to the real truth: Illegals cannot be the victims of crime if they are not present in the communty and, more importantly, they cannot be the suspects of crime for the same reason. By ignoring immigration laws, chiefs of police are actually promoting increased criminal activity in the overall community."

ICE`s own description of the 287(g) program for us laypeople is here. The actual law pertaining to 287(g) is in Title 8, Section 1357 of the U.S. Code ["8 USC 1357"], headlined "Powers of immigration officers and employees." The pertinent sub-section is (g), "Performance of immigration officer functions by State officers and employees."

It is interesting to note, from sub-sub-section #10 of 1357(g), that local authorities are allowed to cooperate with the feds in enforcing immigration laws even if they haven`t executed a 287(g) agreement:

"Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to require an agreement under this subsection in order for any officer or employee of a State or political subdivision of a State—

(A) to communicate with the Attorney General regarding the immigration status of any individual, including reporting knowledge that a particular alien is not lawfully present in the United States; or

(B) otherwise to cooperate with the Attorney General in the identification, apprehension, detention, or removal of aliens not lawfully present in the United States."

Keep that in mnd for when you hear the typical claim that "only the federal government is allowed to deal with immigration."