An immigration enforcement program known as 287(g) is being dismantled by the Obama administration after slowing down over the years. The program authorized local police officers to be deputized in order to function as immigration agents in order to help with immigration issues and enforcement. Under the program, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worked with local police, training officers to act as immigration officers. These officers were trained to check the immigration status of suspected undocumented immigrants and were trained to place immigration holds on undocumented workers and illegal immigrants. Police officers deputized under the 287(g) program worked in the field and in jails to crack down on illegal immigration.
Under President George W. Bush, the 287(g) was widely used. During that administration, 60 local law enforcement agencies signed up to take part in the 287(g) program with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). However, during the current administration participation in the program flagged, with only eight police agencies joining the program. No new participants have signed up for the program since August 2010.
Possibly as a result, the Department of Homeland Security has announced that they will not be signing any new agreements with local law enforcement for participation in the 287(g) program, and will get rid of the agreements that have proved least productive. Budgetary concerns may be partly responsible for the move, with the Department of Homeland Security announcing that getting rid of the program will save approximately $17 million. The last contracts for officers will expire in November 2012, since 287(g) program run for three years.
The Department of Homeland Security has announced that rather than relying on local police, it will rely more heavily on its Secure Communities initiative. Under that program, anyone booked into local jails has their fingerprints checked against immigration databases. If matches are found, ICE officials investigate. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the Secure Communities initiative has proved more cost-effective and efficient in enforcing immigration when compared to the 287(g) program.
In some cases, the 287(g) program was found to be problematic, with some experts arguing that the program offered too little supervision and training, in some cases allegedly paving the way for racial profiling. Some experts also argued that blurring the lines between immigration and police created mistrust of police in the immigration community, which potentially makes police work more challenging.
However, the Secure Communities initiative also has its critics. Some experts say that the program is not effective because some immigrants may not have their fingerprints in immigration databases, making it harder to find undocumented workers and illegal immigrants through fingerprints alone. Those who enter the country illegally, for example, are unlikely to be in the federal immigration databases because they would not have gone through the immigration and biometrics process. Some advocates of the 287(g) program feel that the 287(g) program is more flexible in allowing local law enforcement to investigate any possible instances of illegal immigration, rather than simply relying on a database to automatically flag possible immigration issues.