Immigration: The Failure of ICE

A GAO report on the collaboration between police and immigration agents is the best argument to end the program.

The report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the program that authorizes collaboration between police and immigration agents provides the best argument yet to get rid of it. The lack of interest shown by the Office of Immigration and Custom (ICE) in fulfilling the program's stated purpose has led to a poorly supervised and misdirected process.

Over the years, ICE gave assurances that it was following the purpose of the program, known as 287(g) and established by a 1996 law, to capture and deport serious criminals. However, internal controls were so lax that almost anyone was detained.

The report said that immigration officials ignored the primary purpose, never articulated the level of ICE supervision over participating agencies, and never identified the type of information that agencies were required to collect and send.

The program involved 67 local law enforcement agencies and trained 951 state and local officials. In total, 43,000 persons were detained. Many of these individuals were arrested in their workplaces or at home during nighttime raids. In these cases, a wide net was thrownto capture dangerous criminals, but few were ever caught.

It is ironic that the GAO report was unable to get exact figures on the hardcore criminals detained, those for whom the program was created. As unbelievable as it sounds, ICE doesn't have the information. Is the incompetence at ICE on such a grand scale or is this manipulation of the law by authorities for other purposes?

ICE’s failure to supervise the participating agencies in the program is institutional and not the result of carelessness. The agreements with participating agencies were designed from the outset to give them immigration authority which, in many cases, has been abused.

As we have argued in the past, the 278(g) program should be ended. It is a sham that has only served to destroy families and ruin lives. That said, legislation that mandates efforts between federal immigration and local authorities to detain and deport felons should be fulfilled. But, we need to first close this shameful chapter and start from the beginning.

Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Election 2018