Study: ICE and Local Law Enforcement Aren’t Complying with Key Oversight Requirement

WASHINGTON, D.C. Oct. 9, 2018 – During his first week in office, President Donald Trump issued an executive order on immigration enforcement that included boosting a federal program known as 287(g), which deputizes local law enforcement officers to act as federal immigration agents. Since then, 287(g) partnerships between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local law enforcement agencies have more than doubled nationwide, totaling up to 78 participating 287(g) jurisdictions across 20 states. This rapid expansion has come at the expense of proper oversight and transparency, with ICE and local jurisdictions failing to comply with a key oversight requirement: engaging community stakeholders through steering committees.

A new Center for American Progress analysis found that among 78 existing 287(g) jurisdictions, only 17 have held local steering committee meetings in recent years, and only 9 had any public records of these meetings.

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The 287(g) agreement between ICE and local law enforcement is a voluntary decision made by local agencies to facilitate the use of their staff and local resources for immigration purposes. Therefore, steering committee meetings are critical opportunities for the public to weigh in and provide much-needed feedback about how these agreements are operating.

Despite recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and recent congressional action, today, the standard memorandum of agreement (MOA) between ICE and 287(g) law enforcement agencies fails to mandate the establishment and implementation of steering committee meetings. Instead, it has localities engage in steering committee meetings as they deem “necessary,” leaving this entirely to local officials’ discretion.

“As the growth of 287(g) agreements is likely to continue nationwide, a lack of transparency and poor oversight will only aggravate the negative impacts of 287(g) on local communities,” said Claudia Flores, immigration campaign manager at CAP and author of the issue brief. “The 78 local law enforcement agencies that are currently acting as force multipliers in President Trump’s mass deportation agenda should take public engagement and oversight through steering committee meetings seriously if they want to improve public safety by building and maintaining trust between police and the communities they serve.”

The following recommendations provide a path forward to ensure that ICE and participating law enforcement agencies meet effective 287(g) program oversight:

  • Participating jurisdictions must establish a 287(g) steering committee that meets regularly and is fully accessible to the public.
  • ICE should modify its MOA template to clearly require participating jurisdictions to establish and utilize steering committees with external stakeholders and collect and provide information that is centralized and easily accessible to the public.
  • ICE should submit detailed reports to Congress that include steering committee membership and activities.
  • Congress should prevent additional funding for the 287(g) programs until oversight mechanisms are improved and requirements are met.
  • Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties officials should be present at steering committee meetings.
  • Community leaders should pay close attention and demand that meetings occur at least once a year.

Read the brief: “Rapidly Expanding 287(g) Program Suffers from Lack of Transparency” by Claudia Flores

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The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”