What is the INA 287g Program?
What is the INA 287g Program and what does it mean for Texas? Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allows state and local police officers to collaborate with the federal government to enforce immigration laws. State and local governments have entered into 287(g) agreements in the past several years as a means of identifying and arresting undocumented individuals more easily.
Critics have alleged that the program imposes high financial costs on local communities. In addition, opponents of 287(g) agreements maintain that allowing local law enforcement officers to act as immigration officers in identifying and detaining people strains relationships with local citizens as even those who are lawfully present may be targeted, and because immigrant communities may be reluctant to contact the police or fire department in the event of an emergency out of fear that they may be arrested.
In April, the Houston Police Department noted that they saw a decrease in the number of rapes and violent crimes reported by Hispanics compared to the previous year, and concerns arose that immigrant communities were not reporting crimes for fear of scrutiny about their immigration status.
Section 287(g) gives the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the power to enter into formal written agreements (Memoranda of Agreement or MOAs) with state or local police departments that deputize the police officers to perform the role of federal immigration agents.
These written agreements will specifically delegate federal authority to a select number of officers who are then placed under the supervision of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These officers are then regulated by federal civil rights laws and regulations and are given authority to perform functions such as:
- interview individuals to ascertain their immigration status;
- check DHS databases for information on individuals;
- issue immigration detainers to hold individuals until ICE takes custody;
- enter data into ICE’s database and case management system;
- issue a Notice to Appear (NTA), the official charging document that begins the removal process;
- make recommendations for voluntary departure in place of formal removal proceedings;
- make recommendations for detention and immigration bond; and transfer noncitizens into ICE custody. (https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/287g-program-immigration)
The 287(g) program reached a high point in 2010 when DHS had agreements with over 70 localities. However, from there, the use of the program declined to only 37 active agreements left by March 2017. All 37 of the remaining agreements are jail enforcement model ones where the deputized offices may interrogate alleged noncitizens who have been arrested on state or local charges and may place immigration detainers on inmates that might be subject to removal.
Texas 287g Agreements
As most would have guessed, the Trump administration is keen on bringing the 287(g) program back and has encouraged DHS to search for localities that will sign agreements. On July 31, pursuant to the Trump Administration’s wishes, ICE signed eighteen (18) new active agreements with Texas counties. This is a massive expansion of the program compared to recent years and signals that ICE will devote a considerable amount of resources to the 287(g) program. The following Texas counties are now part of the 287(g) program:
- Aransas County
- Calhoun County
- Chambers County
- DeWitt County
- Galveston County
- Goliad County
- Jackson County
- Lavaca County
- Lubbock County
- Matagorda County
- Montgomery County
- Refugio County
- Smith County
- Tarrant County
- Victoria County
- Walker County
- Waller County
- Wharton County
These agreements essentially are a rebuke against so-called “sanctuary cities” in Texas and will train local agents in sheriff’s offices to check if people who have been detained are in violation of U.S. immigration law. Because the individual must first be in custody, the Texas 287(g) agreements are only currently active in jails. However, this means that individuals who get picked up for something as minor as a traffic violation could get their immigration status checked and put into immigration proceedings as a result.
ICE 287g Program Concerns and Critiques
The largest issue with the 287(g) program is the cost it imposes on local communities. The Sheriff of Harris County, the most populous county in the state, rejected participating in the program because of the costs in manpower and money. Counties that have participated in the 287(g) program have had to raise local taxes and run deficits to implement it.
For example, Mecklenburg County in North Carolina spent a total of $5.3 million in one year and Prince William County in Virginia had to slash $3.1 million from its budget due to costs from its 287(g) program. Another criticism is that the program does not in fact target serious criminal offenses. A study by the Migration Policy Institute found that half of all detainers issued through the 287(g) program were for individuals who had committed misdemeanors and traffic violations.
In addition to the monetary cost of 287(g) agreements, many have voiced concerns of involving local law enforcement officers in immigration status. In addition to the Houston Police Department noting a decrease in reports of rapes and violent crimes by Hispanics, the City of Los Angeles also noted a similar decrease in rape and domestic violence complaints by Latino communities.
Thus, opponents of 287(g) agreements argue that it discourages immigrants from contacting police officers when crimes have been committed, which makes the entire community less safe. Concerns about the effect of 287(g) agreements mirror those that have arisen about Texas SB4, a law authorizing local law enforcement officers to inquire about the immigration status of possible perpetrators, victims or witnesses of criminal activity in the course of an arrest.
ICE 287g Immigration Lawyer
With the State of Texas appearing to embrace President Trump’s harsh focus on undocumented individuals, immigrants in Texas should make a plan with their families to have their documents together and to speak to an immigration lawyer regarding their possible options and preparing a bond package in case the individual is placed into proceedings.