by Lisa Sorg
Immigrants' rights groups have long complained that some local law enforcement agencies in the U.S. are improperly using the 287 (g) program to detain undocumented immigrants on minor offenses, not felonies, and now government testimony supports that claim.
Read the GAO report here.
According to testimony released today from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has not adequately communicated to participating police and sheriff's departments that the goal of 287 (g) is to get serious felons off the streets, thus giving local law enforcement leeway to detain immigrants for lesser offenses. This could result in a "misuse of authority," testified Richard Stana, the GAO's director of Homeland Security and Justice.
287 (g) allows local law enforcement to work with federal immigration officials to deport undocumented immigrants. It is administered under the Homeland Security department and its agency, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
Alamance, Cabarrus, Cumberland, Gaston, Henderson, Mecklenburg and Wake county sheriff's offices and the Durham Police Department participate in 287(g).
In his testimony, Stana did not name any of the 29 law enforcement agencies participating in the program, only that the GAO had interviewed officials in all of them.
Stana further testified before a House Congressional committee about several additional shortcomings in 287 (g), including the failure of federal officials to sufficiently supervise and direct local law enforcement who are participating in the program. Nor has ICE instructed these local law enforcement agencies on the type of data to track and report, which makes evaluating the program difficult.
"Taken together, the lack of internal controls makes it difficult for ICE to ensure that the program is operating as intended," Stana testified.
Look for updates on this story.