Thursday, July 19, 2007

What is this 287(g) stuff?

Chicago news outlets are talking about 287(g) these days after the City of Waukegan voted to have their police participate in the program. So what is 287(g)?

The name comes from the federal immigration act passed in 1996 (IIRAIRA). There is a section of the law (287(g)) that allows state and local law enforcement departments to receive training and power to act as immigration officers.

Some folks in Washington try to make it sound like infrastructure protection (power stations, water treatment plants…) but we weren’t so much interested in such things in 1996.

No, it was intended to help immigration officers do their job. They are understaffed so a local officer who is properly trained can at least do the screening to determine who is deportable.

And the local news outlets were throwing out the term “deportation authority”. That is not true! The involvement of a 287(g) officer is at the very beginning of a LOOOOONG road that might lead to deportation. Let’s not give the impression that a Waukegan cop can pull over an illegal and send him to the border. It doesn’t work that way and the reporters should know better.

Probably the agency with the most trained officers is the Alabama State Police (Highway Patrol). They have 60 officers who have graduated from the program. They must like it because these officers were trained in three “waves” of 20 each. You would think that they wouldn’t keep signing up for more if they didn’t think it had value.

Actually, the State Police model is a good one. We think about them out on the highways making traffic stops, which is true. The Illinois State Police made 459,733 traffic stops in 2006.

But they do more than that. They have Selective Enforcement Teams (SETs) that do everything from car insurance roadblock checks to street gang sweeps. Having them trained in immigration would be a good thing.

But don’t hold your breath in Illinois. Gov. Blago wants to set up Welcome Centers for illegals (I am not kidding) so giving state troopers immigration powers is out of the question for this administration.

Of political note: When Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts he authorized his state police to participate in 287(g) but the new gov crushed the eggs before they hatched.

Other than that, 287(g) has been used mostly in county jails. Having someone trained to screen the inmates is a good thing.

A handful of cities have applied for the program in an effort to expose the criminal element among illegal aliens. 287(g) officers can at least identify them and tag them for removal, something most local police don’t bother to pursue. You don’t need to be told “no” very many times before you give up. My police department told me that they don’t ask ICE because they save the requests for when they need special favors. They didn’t want to go to the well too often.

There are some problems with implementation of this program. The first is political will on the part of ICE in Washington. Sec. Chertoff who is in charge of immigration enforcement made it clear in an NPR interview June 8th that he didn’t want local interference in immigration enforcement.

Predicting what would happen if the Senate didn’t pass the amnesty bill, he told Robert Siegel, “You’re also going to see an increasing number of localities passing their own individual immigration bills. They’re going to be everywhere from ordinances that create sanctuary cities to ordinances in cities that say it’s illegal to rent to undocumented workers. And that means that businesses are going to be faced with hundreds of inconsistent requirements. There’s going to be a lot of confusion.”

Chertoff is the same person that must sign off on 287(g) programs. Maybe I’m misreading him, but I don’t think he wants to do it. Chertoff is for legalizing the illegals as a solution to the problem, not strengthening enforcement. I could be wrong, but I think Pres. Bush feels the same way.

The second problem has to do with the priorities of ICE. Any police department that has contacted ICE to pick up an illegal will tell you that they will only respond to a select type of request. There are a half dozen or so ICE priorities. They include gang members, human smugglers, child molesters, terrorist infiltrators, and certain people who have been ordered deported but have not left the country.

So a local rapist isn’t likely to make their list. But now you have a 287(g) officer who puts the rapist on the list. Now what? He’ll need to be flagged through the court/prison process, he’ll need a detention bed, and he’ll need to be sent home after serving his time. Bush knows that 20-30,000 beds won’t do the job. And he knows that another BIA appeal added to the workload won’t help Washington.

I feel for them, but the alternative is absurd. You can’t just put a criminal illegal alien back on the streets in the United States.

Personally, I wholeheartedly support the 287(g) program for the following reasons:
1) It puts a number to the problem, exposing just how many illegal aliens pass through our local jails.
2) It puts pressure on Washington to protect citizens from people who do not have a lawful presence in the United States.
3) It helps create a deterrent to future illegals, just knowing that someone out there cares about their status and will question them.
4) It reestablishes the truth that illegals are not supposed to be here and are subject to removal.
5) It makes our communities safer.

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