Thursday, July 16, 2009

Details on the New 287(g) MOA

So as we reported last Friday, the Department of Homeland Security has issued a new memorandum of agreement that redefines how the 287(g) program will be run. Today, I finally got some specs on the new MOA.

287(g) is a program that was authorized in 1996 legislation, but didn't come into existence until the Bush years. In essence, the program allows local police enforcement to act as federal immigration agents.

The 287(g) program during the Bush years was coated in problems...from blatant racial profiling, to having no oversight, to actually reducing the police's ability to fight crime. A GAO report issued back in March stated that:
  1. The program lacks key internal controls
  2. The program objectives have not been laid out or documented in program-related materials
  3. Oversight on how (and when) to use immigration authority has been inconsistent
  4. The structure of ICE's supervision of 287(g) programs has not been developed or defined
  5. Consistent data collection, documentation, and reporting requirements have not been defined
  6. Performance meters used to evaluate program progress are virtually non-existent
Many groups have spoken out against the program, including FCNL, but also the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Major Cities Chiefs Association.

The new memorandum issued by the Obama Administration seems to be addressing some of these core concerns. For instance, in the prior MOA, priorities for arrest and detention were not addressed; the new MOA has outlined priorities that are divided into three levels of importance. Even at the lowest level, immigrants picked up in the 287(g) program must have been convicted of other criminal offenses (which, fyi, most immigration violations are not).

The new MOA also strictly binds all personnel to ALL federal civil rights laws, regulations, and guidance relating to non-discrimination. There is a new process for addressing complaints and ensuring that the program's operation plans have full oversight.

So overall, the new MOA is better than the old one. But I am still concerned that the program is being expanded rather than contracted. Moreover, the new memorandum does not call into question the fundamental nature of a 287(g) agreement. Should local law enforcement be enforcing immigration law?

I think the answer is no.

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