By Joe Guzzardi
February 22, 2012
To understand how little interest the White House has in enforcing immigration law, consider this figure: $5.4 million.
That’s the sum that the Department of Homeland Security wants to gut from the 2013 federal budget that last year went to participants in the 287 (g) program. Broadly defined, 287 (g) allows police jurisdictions in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security to detain and process illegal aliens as if they were deputized ICE agents. President Obama and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano have openly opposed 287 (g) even though it helps remove aliens from the general population and despite its Congressional support. During a recent House hearing, however, Secretary Napolitano alleged that the cost involved in training local police exceeds the sum that the government deems cost effective for deporting aliens.
In numerous statements during the last several months, Secretary Napolitano emphasized that the administration’s priority is to focus DHS resources on removing criminal aliens instead of other “low priority” illegal immigrants who represent an economic threat—that is, they take jobs that unemployed Americans would eagerly do. The DHS practice of allowing some aliens to stay in the United States despite their immigration violations is known as prosecutorial discretion, another manifestation of the White House’s defiance of federal law.
Since its inception, 287 (g) has been an effective tool in identifying potentially dangerous aliens. The program operates on the theory that local immigration enforcement can be effectively carried out even miles from the border.
Established in 1996 by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, officers receive ICE schooling in functions such as identifying, processing and detaining immigration offenders. This background provides state and local police with additional skills to prosecute crimes aliens commit, especially gang violence and document fraud, while simultaneously reducing illegal immigration’s overall negative impact.
During its early implementation, 287 (g) had impressive successes. ICE trained hundreds of officers who made thousands of arrests in urban areas both large and small.
Consequently, 287 (g) quickly became a favorite target of immigration advocacy groups like the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the American Civil Liberties Union. Among their claims are that 287 (g) leads to racial profiling and abuse of power. But an extensive General Accounting Office study failed to confirm those allegations. The ACLU specifically argued that 287 (g) was originally intended to identify “…and remove undocumented immigrants convicted of violent crimes, human smuggling, gang/organized crime activity, sexual-related offenses, narcotics smuggling, and money laundering,” a charge House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith refutes. Smith was the House author of the original 1996 legislation.
Since 2009, the Obama administration has tinkered with, and watered down, the 287 (g) language to minimize its effectiveness. Now, it proposes to cancel the funding.
Returning to the piddling $5.4 million sum, note how it pales in comparison—to $1.3 trillion allotted since 2001 for the Middle East Wars or the $15.4 trillion national debt. In fact, $5.4 million might not pay for the various vacations the Obama family has taken since the president was inaugurated.
Americans deserve to live in safe neighborhoods without the threat of dangerous illegal immigrants. Obviously, the White House doesn’t agree.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. His columns have been syndicated since 1986. Contact him at [email protected]