Saturday, February 18, 2012

Secure Communities Up 287g Down

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials say they will not sign new contracts for 287(g) officers working in the field and will terminate the "least productive" of those agreements — saving an estimated $17 million. All the contracts between Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) and local police agencies run for three years, so that portion of the program could be finished by November when the last contract for field officers expires.

In its budget request, DHS said officials instead will focus on expanding Secure Communities, a program that checks the fingerprints of all people booked into local jails against federal immigration databases. The followup work in those cases is done by ICE agents, not local police.

"The Secure Communities screening process is more consistent, efficient and cost-effective in identifying and removing criminal and other priority aliens," the department explained in its budget request.

The ICE officers will provide coverage at the jails 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Under the plan, all people booked into a jail will have their fingerprints automatically screened through a DHS immigration computer database as part of the federal government's Secure Communities program, an official said. ICE officers at the jail will place detainers on every person who the database shows is either an immigrant in the country illegally or is a legal immigrant accused of committing an aggravated felony that makes him or her deportable from the United States.

The DHS immigration database is not foolproof. Some illegal immigrants may not show up in the database if they entered the country illegally and have never been arrested by the police or apprehended by federal immigration officials. To prevent illegal immigrants not in the database from slipping through the cracks, ICE officials will interview every person booked into the jail, unless the database shows they are naturalized U.S. citizens who are not deportable or are legal immigrants accused of petty crimes who are also not deportable.

On April 2010, Joaquin Guerra, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) wrote: This call came on the heels of the release of the report by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) on the Immigration and Custom Enforcement's 287(g) program, which gives state and local law enforcement agencies authority to enforce immigration laws. The report points to serious problems with oversight and accountability, indicating that ICE has little control over the program.

The failure of the 287g ICE enforcement program exemplifies the kind of deeper and broader issues that DHS is facing today.

When DHS first announced its enforcement goals--including its increased focus on worksite I9 audits, SEIU was optimistic that the Obama Administration would clean up past wrongdoings. We had expected DHS to finally build an immigration enforcement program that would prioritize the abusive, off the books employers who exploit undocumented immigrants and push down wages and working conditions for all workers.

Instead, the agency has replaced worksite raids with electronic raids. These worksite I9 audits are not smart, targeted or effective. They do nothing to curb behaviors of bad-acting employers and they get us farther away from our shared goal of comprehensive reform.

As a result of these senseless I9 audits:

- Thousands are getting fired for no good end
- Thousands of workers once in the legitimate taxed economy are now being pushed into the underground economy--which further drives down wages for U.S. workers.
- More workers are fading into the underground economy of sweatshops and cash payments, actually benefitting the most abusive, off the books employers who will never be reached by audits because they don't pay taxes or provide reports to the IRS.
- U.S. citizens and lawful workers have been misidentified and mistakenly fired by their employers because they've been erroneously flagged in the worksite audits by a flawed Social Security database; and

That is why SEIU members across the country are turning out this week to hold vigils in front of ICE offices.

Simply put: we will not take the ICE outrages any longer.
It's time for Secretary Napolitano and Assistant Sec. Morton to reign in ICE.

ICE needs to stop operating like a headless monster. DHS and ICE must act immediately to get their house in order and restore faith in the agency's competence. That means they must set sensible enforcement priorities that are good for workers, good for our country and are responsibly implemented at all levels.

Keep the Program
A report by the Center for Immigration Studies explain why: 287(g) has helped reduce immigration-related public safety problems in participating jurisdictions, while significantly contributing to the productivity of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in removing illegal aliens. Some of the findings.

- The report, “The 287(g) Program: Protecting Home Towns and Homeland,” includes statistics from ICE and local 287(g) agencies and describes the various types of 287(g) programs and why they are effective.

- Authors Jessica Vaughan and James R. Edwards, Jr. also discuss some of the challenges facing the program, such as threats of reduced funding from Congress, opposition from ethnic and civil liberties groups, and efforts by the current administration to impose limits on how local partners can use 287(g).

- 287(g) provides a significant boost to ICE’s ability to identify and remove aliens who have committed crimes. In 2008, the number of 287(g) arrests (45,368) was equal to one-fifth of all criminal aliens identified by ICE in prisons and jails nationwide (221,085).

- 287(g) is cost-effective and much less expensive than other criminal alien identification programs such as Secure Communities and Fugitive Operations. For example, in 2008 ICE spent $219 million to remove 34,000 fugitive aliens (who are mostly criminals).

- In 2008, ICE was given $40 million for 287(g), which produced more than 45,000 arrests of aliens who were involved in state and local crimes.

The biggest obstacle to improving and expanding 287(g) is the lack of funding for bed space to detain illegal aliens who have committed crimes who are discovered by local agencies. Currently ICE is removing fewer than half of the criminal aliens identified under 287(g).

The 287g is part of the immigration law of 1996, signed by the democratic president Bill Clinton.

Weeks ago the American Constitution Society held a symposium in Atlanta regarding the constitutionality -or not- of the immigration laws preempted by the states. Most of the experts agreed that both programs, 287g and Secure Communities harm individuals, families and the nation.

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