Federal Govn't Looking to Rewrite 287g
Immigration-program flaws cited in new government report
GAO: Enforcement by local police agencies lacks directionWASHINGTON - The rapidly growing program that lets local police agencies enforce federal immigration laws lacks clear goals about what kinds of criminals should be targeted, fails to supervise local officers and does not detail what kind of crime and arrest data local agencies should be collecting, according to a new federal report."Without objective data, we cannot evaluate the effectiveness of this program, nor can we determine whether better results could be achieved by other means such as increasing the number of (federal immigration) agents," Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., said Wednesday during a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee, where the Government Accountability Office report was released.The federal government will rewrite its agreements with local and state law agencies that enforce immigration laws, an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement official told the committee. William Riley said the agency is circulating a draft contract that will more clearly explain the purpose of a controversial program known as 287(g).Thompson, chairman of the committee, said he is troubled by reports that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have not adequately controlled the program resulting in charges that it is being used to harass Hispanics and arrest immigrants for minor traffic violations instead of major crimes."While I do not know whether 287(g) is an effective program, I do know that it is a program that has been accused of racial profiling," Thompson said. "And that accusation should concern us all."But Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose office participates in the program, says it is working well and making communities safer."We're helping the federal government," he said.Arpaio credits his participation in the program with the arrest of nearly 1,500 illegal immigrants."If the critics don't want local law enforcement involved, then they need to go out and hire thousands more ICE agents. They couldn't do what they're doing if we didn't help them - no way," he said.The program is becoming increasingly controversial as a growing number of local police agencies sign up to participate.Although the program attracted little interest when it was created by Congress in 1996 as part of the Illegal Immigration Control and Immigrant Responsibility Act, it has expanded rapidly since Congress failed to pass immigration reform in 2006 and 2007.As of October, ICE reported enrolling 67 agencies in 23 states and training 951 state and local law-enforcement officers. There is a waiting list to join the program, Thompson said.Arpaio's department is the largest and most controversial participant. He signed an agreement in February 2007 to have 160 deputies and jailers trained to enforce immigration laws, more than any other agency in the country.In February, four key Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate possible civil-rights violations based on complaints that Arpaio's deputies are targeting residents based on their skin color during neighborhood crime sweeps and raids at work sites.Napolitano has ordered her department to review immigration enforcement and border security, including the 287(g) program.Last weekend, thousands of protesters marched through central Phoenix to protest Arpaio's tactics.Arpaio steadfastly denies that his deputies engage in racial profiling. Federal immigration officials in Phoenix have repeatedly said that Arpaio is complying with the law.Arpaio's immigration enforcement has strong public support. In November, he easily won re-election to a fifth term."I get hundreds of calls from around the United States supporting what I'm doing," the sheriff said. "Maybe the politicians should get a clue."The Associated Press and Republic reporter Daniel González contributed to this article.