A Primer on Trump’s Executive Order and Local Law Enforcement’s Role

Published on February 28th, 2017

Last month, President Trump signed an executive order that will empower some Immigration and Customs Enforcement-trained local law enforcement officers to detain illegal immigrants that they encounter in the normal course of daily duties. Restoring 287(g), an Immigration and Nationality Act program, fulfills one of President Trump’s campaign promises.

287(g) is an important crime deterrent.

County jails, prisons, sheriff’s offices and police departments that become 287(g)-designated receive access to ICE and Department of Homeland Security databases, so officials can quickly check names, fingerprints and photos in order to help identify aliens – and not just criminal aliens. In 2012, however, Obama administration ended 287(g).

The increased likelihood that local officers will identify so-called nonviolent aliens troubles immigration advocacy groups and some in the mainstream media. As Alicia Caldwell of the Associated Press wrote: “The Trump administration is greatly expanding the number of people living in the U.S. illegally who are considered a priority for deportation, including people arrested for traffic violations, according to agency documents released Tuesday.”

But that’s exactly 287(g)’s objective. When U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith was Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, he wrote to The New York Times that 287(g) would expedite the removal of aliens before they might become a risk to society: “Waiting until illegal immigrants commit criminal offenses before deporting them places American citizens and legal immigrants in danger.” 287(g) also discourages illegal immigrants from entering, an indirect but positive benefit.

One purpose of enforcement action is to discourage illegal immigration and to encourage aliens to self-deport rather than be formally removed. As one example among many of 287(g)’s effectiveness, when Frederick County, Maryland, adopted the program, its Hispanic alien population dropped 61 percent, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

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