The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to renew its 287(g) program, a federal-state partnership that enables local police to send imprisoned illegal aliens to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bureau for deportation. Supervisors Gloria Molina, Michael Antonovich and Don Knabe voted to retain the program while Mark Ridley-Thomas and Zev Yaroslavsky abstained.
L.A. County has used 287(g) since 2005. It basically deputizes local police to engage in immigration enforcement efforts. The so-called jail model LA County uses trains police to screen convicts’ immigration status so that they can be deported upon release. The program is a predecessor of Secure Communities, which automatically forwards the fingerprints of arrestees to ICE for checking. It is considered to be more effective than Secure Communities in getting criminal aliens off the streets because screening identifies those missed in a database check.
"(I)n-person screenings, like the ones conducted by local law enforcement personnel under the 287(g) program, are of value," said ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice. "In these face to face encounters, we'll potentially identify individuals who are an enforcement priority for ICE...who might have gone undetected because their fingerprints weren't in DHS' database."
Identifying criminal aliens also helps the county financially. Local governments that jail criminal foreign nationals get some federal reimbursement under the State Criminal Alien Assistance (SCAAP) program, although funding has been reduced over time. LA County now gets only about 10 cents back for every dollar it spends for SCAAP-eligible foreign inmates.
“[287(g)] helps us maintain better records for the purpose of reimbursement from the federal government," said Anna Pembedjian, a staffperson for County Supervisor Michael Antonovich. “When these individuals are arrested and serving time in our jails, we have no alternative but to provide them with the housing, the mental health care, the medical care, food and security, which costs the county taxpayers millions of dollars every year. It is imperative for the county to recover the money from the federal government, otherwise it forces cuts in other vital services.”
But 287(g)’s enforcement potential is only realized if criminal foreign nationals identified for deportation are actually deported. The Washington Times reports that the number of criminal foreign nationals deported under the program nationwide dropped from 45,308 in 2009 to 11,767 in 2013.
In 2008, Frederick County, Maryland started using a different type of 287(g) program (task force model) that allows local police to forward arrestees, as opposed to inmates, to ICE for deportation. Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins told The Washington Times that ICE released 25 of the 98 illegal aliens his deputies arrested and forwarded for deportation this year. By comparison, ICE only released two of the 100 illegal aliens the county sent them in 2008, the last year of the Bush Administration.
“Right now there’s lack of enforcement of immigration laws,” Jenkins said. “But if we run [287(g)] the right way, we can do what we can to try to enforce them and get these criminals off our streets…Everyone against this program just doesn’t want any kind of immigration enforcement at all. With the border crisis, every county in the nation is going to be a border county. It’s going to be chaos. Every county needs to enforce the laws of this nation, and that’s what we’re doing with this program.”
25 percent of those Jenkins detained this year committed serious felonies, a 14 percent increase over last year.
Read more from Southern California Public Radio and The Washington Times.
Updated: Wed, Oct 22nd 2014 @ 12:30pm EDT