Secret Deportation Quotas, Program Failures and High Budget Costs from Local Immigration Enforcement Revealed in Recent Reports

Recent reports have raised serious concerns about program failures, secret deportation quotas and the high costs of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)'s controversial 287(g) program, which trains and authorizes state and local police departments to enforce federal immigration law. 

Reports Detail 287(g) Failures:  Just this past week, the Department of Homeland Security's own Office of the Inspector General published a report detailing how the 287(g) program lacks federal oversight, is poorly managed by Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE), lacks consistent implementation guidelines in different jurisdictions, and has failed to take any action against law enforcement agencies that are clearly violating the terms of their agreements with ICE.  This parallels a January 2009 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that highlighted failures to meet the program's stated goals, leading to state and local police officers frequently detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants for traffic violations and other minor crimes. 

Secret Memo Reveals Deportation Quotas:  Even worse, the program appears to have been abused as part of a costly mass-deportation dragnet by federal officials to meet deportation quotas, according to an internal government memo leaked to The Washington Post on March 27th.  In the memo, James Chaparro, head of ICE detention and removal operations, outlined annual deportation quotas of 400,000, bemoaned the low level of deportations in the current year, and directed ICE regional offices to redirect their attention toward rounding up undocumented immigrants who have not committed any crimes.

This memo directly contradicts pledges from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and the head of ICE, John Morton, to focus immigration enforcement on undocumented immigrants with violent records.  In the face of an outcry from immigrant rights advocates and calls for Morton's resignation, ICE almost immediately backpedaled and sought to distance itself from Chaparro's remarks by retracting the memo.  Yet the next day, Chaparro issued another memo restating his previous strategy and goals for immigration enforcement.

287(g) Focus on Minor Infractions Hurting Local Budgets:  In fact, evidence indicates that 287(g) efforts have been misused to target minor offenses rather than violent criminals, which has ended up increasing local budget costs for jurisdictions participating in the program.  According to a University of North Carolina analysis, 87% of all individuals booked through 287(g) in the state were charged with misdemeanors, while only 13% were charged with felonies.  In Gaston County, North Carolina, 95% of those charged and apprehended through the program committed misdemeanors - 60% of them for traffic violations that did not include drunk driving.

As an Immigration Policy Center analysis details, the 287(g) program operates in 67 jurisdictions in 24 states.  The program has frequently increased costs for state and local police departments, since ICE does not provide funding for police departments to implement 287(g) programs and other immigration enforcement initiatives. In addition, the program has eroded more effective community policing practices and encouraged racial profiling - often sweeping immigrants with legal status and US citizens into immigration enforcement actions. 

A University of North Carolina Latino Migration Project analysis notes the program's costs in Alamance County, North Carolina totaled $4.8 million the first year alone.  Mecklenburg County, NC devotes an estimated $5.5 million annually  to implement its 287(g) program.  A Brookings Institute report  found Virginia's Prince William County had to raise property taxes by 5 % and dip into its 'rainy day' fund to cover higher-than-anticipated costs for the 287(g) program, which totaled $6.4 million the first year alone, $1.4 million more than initial estimates. Maricopa County, Arizona's infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his draconian approach to implementing their 287(g) program created a $1.3 million budget deficit in just three months, according to a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of investigative articles from the East Valley Tribune.  States and localities who enter into 287(g) agreements also often incur indirect expenses such as litigation fees and reductions in local business revenues and sales taxes. For example, undocumented immigrants in the metropolitan Chicago area spend $2.89 billion annually on goods and services alone, creating an additional 31,908 jobs in the local economy. And North Carolina's Latino residents contribute an estimated $9.2 billion annually to the state's economy. Apprehending and eventually deporting undocumented immigrants means they are no longer consumers who contribute to state and local tax coffers every time they buy local goods.     

State and Local Communities Turning to Better Approaches:  A number of local communities have recently opted out of the program due to its high costs, including Morris County, New Jersey and Houston, Texas. The Board of Commissioners of Chatham County, North Carolina rejected adopting a 287(g) program in January 2009, citing "a lack of fiscal resources" and the "high risk of civil liability" stemming from possible lawsuits against the county.  As PSN noted last fall, many states are instead focusing on community policing approaches that seek to collaborate with immigrant communities to lower crime at far lower cost than pursuing punitive anti-immigrant enforcement policies encouraged by the 287(g) program.  Such an approach to criminal justice in immigrant communities is far more likely to be a success, especially in light of the 287(g) program's widespread failures.

Progressive States Network - Community Policing as an Alternative to Local Enforcement of Immigration Law, Community Policing Conference Call
Immigration Policy Center - Local Enforcement of Immigration Laws Through the 287(g) Program: Time, Money, and Resources Don't Add Up to Community Safety
Justice Strategies -  Local Democracy on ICE: Why State and Local Governments Have No Business in Federal Immigration Law Enforcement
Government Accountability Office -  Immigration Enforcement: Better Controls Needed Over Program Authorizing State and Local Enforcement of Federal Immigration Laws
Department of Homeland Security - The Performance of 287(g) Agreements
Migration Policy Institute - A Program In Flux: New Priorities and Implementation Challenges for 287(g)
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Latino Migration Project - The 287(g) Program: The Costs and Consequences of Local Immigration Enforcement in North Carolina Communities
Immigration and Human Rights Policy Clinic at UNC Chapel Hill and ACLU-NC - The Policies and Politics of Local Immigration Enforcement Laws: 287(g) Program in North Carolina
University of Illinois at Chicago Center for Urban Economic Development - Chicago’s Undocumented Immigrants: An Analysis of Wages, Working Conditions, And Economic Contributions
American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation & University of North Carolina Immigration and Human Rights Policy Clinic - The Policies and Politics of Local Immigration Enforcement Laws: the 287 (g) Program in North Carolina
The Drum Major Institute for Public Policy - Fact Sheet: Immigrants' Economic Contributions - Principles for an Immigration Policy to Strengthen and Expand the American Middle Class: 2009 Edition
Center for American Progress - The Costs of Mass Deportation: Impractical, Expensive, and Ineffective