A Controversial ICE Program and the Decision Facing Localities This June

A man is detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Los Angeles, October 2015.

A major decision looms for more than 80 jurisdictions around the United States that have agreed to partner with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under a formal cooperative agreement known as 287(g). Without further action, nearly all* current 287(g) agreements with ICE will expire on June 30, 2019. As local stakeholders increasingly raise concerns about the costs to taxpayers, public safety, and communities at large that result from these agreements, jurisdictions will decide next month whether or not they will continue serving as accomplices in President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda.

The Trump administration has been relentless in its attacks against immigrants—from attempting to end protections for more than 1 million Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, to blocking asylum seekers from accessing safe and legal protections, and systematically ripping children away from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. But as the administration focuses on turning away those fleeing violence and terrorizing children and families seeking asylum at the southwest border, immigrant families continue to feel the effect of the administration’s immigration policies and practices in the interior of the United States.

Under President Trump’s punitive immigration agenda, sweeping changes to immigration enforcement within the United States included rebooting the controversial federal-local partnership known as 287(g), through which state and local law enforcement officers act as ICE deputies. While the Trump administration did not create the 287(g) program, it views it as a critical tool in its ability to deport as many undocumented immigrants living in the United States as possible. Today, ICE has 287(g) contract agreements with 81 law enforcement agencies in 21 states, two-thirds of which were signed during the Trump administration.

The decision to collaborate through a 287(g) agreement is purely discretionary, and state and local officials can terminate these agreements at any time. Over the next month, jurisdictions must choose whether they will side with President Trump’s immigration policy by continuing their collaboration on federal immigration enforcement or protect their communities and prioritize public safety by not renewing their expiring 287(g) partnerships.

A critical tool in the Trump enforcement machine

For the past several years, immigration arrests within the United States have been on the rise. The Trump administration has taken a particularly aggressive approach to immigration enforcement by broadening the scope of who is at risk for deportation and directing U.S. resources to remove all undocumented immigrants—regardless of how long they have lived in the United States, their family and community ties, or their criminal backgrounds.

According to a Center for American Progress analysis of Transactional Records Access Clearing data, in the first 16 months of the Trump administration, more than 12,000 immigrants were deported under the 287(g) program—more than two and half times the number of 287(g) removals during the last 16 months of the Obama administration.

Keeping 287(g) agreements is a costly choice for local jurisdictions

Participation in the 287(g) program can have far-reaching social, economic, and fiscal implications for communities. Several studies have shown that entangling local law enforcement with ICE harms public safety and undermines effective policing. The 287(g) program, in particular, has been historically plagued with allegations of racial profiling and civil rights abuses, some of which have resulted in hefty lawsuits at the expense of taxpayer money.

Not only is the 287(g) program riddled with transparency and oversight flaws, but it also threatens local economies and communities. According to previous CAP analysis of 40 participating 287(g) jurisdictions, immigrant households in these localities contributed $24.4 billion in annual tax revenue and generated $65.9 billion in spending power. Localities signing up for this voluntary program are thus doing so at the risk of losing these vital economic contributions.

Additionally, broad, aggressive immigration enforcement has been connected to increased fear and anxiety among young children, and recent research indicates that cooperation between local law enforcement agencies and ICE can also have damaging effects on students. Researchers at Stanford University found that the number of Hispanic children attending public schools dropped significantly in localities with 287(g) agreements and estimated the displacement of more than 300,000 children across 55 counties, including a sustained 7.3 percent reduction in the number of Hispanic students.

When it comes to public safety, programs such as 287(g) foster mistrust of law enforcement personnel due to a heightened fear of deportation, which threatens not just immigrants but entire communities. Research conducted by Professor Tom K. Wong of the University of California, San Diego and senior fellow at CAP found in a survey of undocumented Mexican nationals in San Diego County that if local law enforcement officials were working with ICE, 60.8 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to report a crime they witnessed; and 42.9 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to report being a victim of a crime. Together, the dangerous and harmful social, economic, and human costs of federal and local cooperation on immigration enforcement can have a chilling effect on communities.

Local communities are rejecting 287(g) agreements

Concerns over the negative effects of 287(g) agreements have prompted local resistance nationwide. Last year, voters in major jurisdictions rebuked President Trump’s immigration agenda by ousting local elected officials based on their cooperation with ICE. In North Carolina, for example, ICE then chose to go against the will of voters and against local sheriffs who had rejected such local law enforcement cooperation with the federal government and carried out retaliatory raids in counties that had formally ended 287(g) agreements, further terrorizing and disrupting neighborhoods while detaining hundreds of community members. In response, Rep. David Price (D-NC) pressed Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Kevin McAleenan on ICE’s retaliatory practices during a recent House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. While increased federal oversight on ICE’s practices is extremely important, the DHS has made it clear that it will continue to pursue increased local cooperation as it ramps up enforcement. The recently announced Warrant Service Officer program, for instance, would deputize local law enforcement officers to serve administrative arrest warrants on individuals in their custody in an effort to make an end-run around constitutional deficiencies with ICE’s existing detainer program. Warrants served as a result of this program are likely to be challenged in court, but for now the program serves as an additional tool in President Trump’s deportation agenda.

Conclusion

Local law enforcement participating in federal immigration enforcement has inflicted serious damage on communities across the country. As the Trump administration continues to work aggressively to detain and deport more people by entangling local law enforcement in federal immigration enforcement, localities must carefully assess the serious costs associated with their cooperation. Given the problematic nature of 287(g) agreements; the costly human, legal, and economic implications to participating jurisdictions; and the growing public backlash against these programs, next month local elected leaders can make the right choice by rejecting 287(g) agreements and instead focusing on rebuilding community trust. In doing so, they would fulfill their law enforcement mission by serving and protecting all residents—rather than being accomplices to the Trump administration’s inhumane approach to immigration enforcement.

Claudia Flores is the immigration campaign manager for Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress. The author thanks Tom Jawetz, Philip E. Wolgin, and Nicole Prchal Svajlenka of the Center for American Progress for providing research support and thoughtful review of this column.

*Author’s note: As of May 7, 2019, ICE had listed 81 287(g) agreements on its website, some of which had missing links to MOAs.