Harford County, Maryland Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler signed a 287(g) federal/local partnership agreement that will allow his deputies to screen for illegal aliens in the county’s jail who have committed crimes that threaten public safety or who otherwise threaten national security. ICE will pick up the aliens identified if they meet the agency’s deportation priorities.
"What we're going to is, screen every single individual that comes into the detention center, after our deputies are trained, and identify those who are here illegally and further victimizing the community," Sheriff Gahler told The Baltimore Sun. He said he "could not be more pleased to be here today signing this agreement." The Republican sheriff’s 2014 campaign platform featured immigration enforcement.
ICE representative Tom Homan, who was present at the signing ceremony, said "This is about partnership. This is about having additional manpower to help us do our job." He also stressed that the 287(g) program does not target all illegal aliens. "If they don't fall within our priorities as a public safety threat, it's somebody we're not interested in through this program," he said.
Under the agreement, about 10 county corrections deputies will be trained to screen arrestees when they first enter the jail. The federal government pays for the cost of training and equipment. The deputies will work under the supervision of ICE officers and monitored from the field office in Baltimore.
Homan said 287(g) has been "very successful" in protecting communities around the country. "For every alien that is captured due to this program, it's one less alien that is going to commit a crime in this community," he said. The ICE web site notes that the 287(g) program is credited with identifying more than 402,079 potentially removable aliens, mostly at local jails, from January 2006 through September 30, 2015.
ICE spokes person Sarah Rodriguez told The Sun the agency wants to expand the 287(g) program to "law enforcement agencies that are exemplary." This is a reversal for an agency that sought to phase out the program a few years ago in response to pressure from illegal-alien advocacy groups.
Shortly after Obama took office in 2009, about 1,000 officers from 67 state and local law enforcement agencies participated in 287(g). At the time, they were allowed to identify any illegal alien for potential deportation, not just serious criminals.
Many officers worked under the “correctional” program Harford County just joined. But 287(g) also was implemented in a highway patrol setting and under “task force/investigative” agreements. The latter, in particular, enabled law enforcement agencies to apprehend and put on the path to removal violent, felony career criminals who otherwise would not have been identified. Officers used immigration law tools to pursue complex investigations involving organized crime, human smuggling, drug trafficking and distribution, gangs, and document fraud.
Under pressure from illegal-alien advocates, the Obama Administration in July 2009 announced new rules for the 287(g) program, and gave all participants 90 days to sign a new agreement. The rules limited the investigative abilities of local law enforcement agencies and forced them to align their use of 287(g) authority with ICE’s priorities for the removal of criminal aliens. The agencies were told that ICE would no longer accept custody of “minor” offenders so that the agency could preserve limited enforcement resources for “serious” criminals. This concerned the agencies because many of those picked up on minor offenses were actually habitual offenders and/or have serious prior offenses.
Over time, the Administration suspended the agreements of local agencies that did not comply. Others dropped out of the program on their own. By 2012 ICE began phasing out 287(g) agreements, and pushed local law enforcement agencies into the Secure Communities Program. That program was designed to automatically check inmates’ fingerprints against the ICE database and flag serious criminal aliens for further action. It did not allow officers to interview foreign-born inmates, which had enabled them to catch criminal aliens who weren’t in the ICE database. By December of 2012, ICE announced it would not renew the 32 remaining investigative agreements and further restricted its use of detainers.
In November 2014, as part of a set of sweeping executive actions that included the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals amnesty, the Administration terminated the Secure Communities program and replaced it with the Priority Enforcement Program. That program limited ICE detainers to aliens who had serious criminal convictions, thus fully shielding most illegal aliens from deportation, and explicitly allowed local governments to impose non-cooperation (sanctuary) policies on local law enforcement agencies. Many adopted sanctuary policies at the behest of illegal-alien advocacy groups.
The cumulative result of these policies drastically reduced interior deportations, including those for criminal aliens. Since this undermined the very rationale for its “criminal” prioritization, the Administration was forced to find a way to increase the deportation of criminal aliens. After refusing to renew a local 287(g) program since 2013, ICE renewed 23 correctional agreements over a two-week period in June of 2016.
Data are not yet available to show whether the Administration’s renewed emphasis on 287(g) has produced more criminal-alien deportations. With the addition of Harford County, Maryland ICE has 287(g) correctional agreements with 33 law enforcement agencies in 16 states. Unlike the previously available investigative agreement, these correctional partnership will not give local law enforcement agencies the abilities needed for systematic investigations involving criminal aliens. But they will, as Sheriff Gahler said, reduce the number of criminal aliens victimizing communities.
Read more about the Harford County 287(g) agreement in The Baltimore Sun.
Updated: Fri, Nov 11th 2016 @ 11:55am EST