Policy or Politics? DHS Changes and Expands 287(g) Program

Last Friday,

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano

announced changes to the controversial 287(g) program—a program which allows state and local police agencies to partner with ICE to enforce federal immigration laws. DHS also announced that, rather than waiting for the new policies to be implemented and tested, it has expanded the problematic 287(g) program with 11 new Memoranda of Agreement (MOAs).

The 287(g) program has been broadly criticized by immigrant and civil rights advocates, religious leaders, elected officials and the police themselves. Numerous reports from think tanks, academics, community organizations and police associations have shown that the 287(g) program costs valuable resources, results in mistakes and racial profiling, does not effectively control illegal immigration, and makes it more difficult for the police to serve and protect their communities. Even the government found fault with how the program was being implemented. A March 2009 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found the 287(g) program did not have clear goals and objectives and lacked consistent supervision.

Yet rather than announce that the program would be suspended or significantly curtailed, DHS announced new guidelines that seek to address some of the most egregious errors in the program. Changes include:

  • ICE will more closely monitor and supervise the way local police agencies implement their authority to enforce immigration laws.
  • The partnerships will prioritize the most dangerous criminal immigrants, rather than broadly targeting large numbers of undocumented immigrants with no criminal violations.
  • ICE will implement a complaint mechanism so that individuals can report problems with the program.
  • All 287(g) local partners will be bound by all federal civil rights law and guidance, and they will be required to provide interpretation services for immigrants who do not speak English.

DHS has also re-written the MOAs between local police agencies and ICE. Currently each of the 66 MOAs is different. DHS announced that the new MOAs will be standardized and will expire after three years (at which time we assume they can be renewed). All current 287(g) MOAs are currently being renegotiated. Notably, if a local police agency is not abiding by the rules of the program, DHS can theoretically terminate or suspend the MOA with that agency.

The new MOAs have not been made public, so as of now, one can only go by the Administration’s word that they have made positive changes to the program.

While these new policies do show that DHS has been listening to criticisms and has made strides to address the various problems raised over the past months and years, the fact remains that 287(g) is still a very problematic program. No matter what changes are made, 287(g) arrangements still hinder the police’s ability to serve and protect their communities because communities will still fear sharing information with them. None of these changes can possibly make 287(g) an effective solution to our nation’s illegal immigration problem.

Nor will these changes matter if they are not properly implemented and monitored. For example, Sheriff Arpaio in Maricopa County, Arizona, has blatantly stated that he is not interested in being supervised by ICE. In a statement of sheer defiance, Arpaio recently stated that he will no longer cooperate with the Department of Justice, which is investigating alleged misuse of immigration authority and related abuses by the sheriff. Sounds like an MOA prime for termination. But will DHS actually terminate the MOAs of those agencies that do not comply with the new guidelines?


It’s hard to know whether last week’s 287(g) announcement is policy or just more politics. We will be anxiously monitoring how the new guidelines are implemented. However, the mere fact that DHS expanded the program to 11 new partners before the new policies have been tested gives us pause. Addressing the ongoing concerns about the program simply does not do enough to justify a simultaneous effort to expand it.

Michele Waslin

Republished with permission from Immigration Impact.

LA Progressive


  1. Brittancus says

    I think many Americans are naturally apprehensive of the sudden volume of activity, politicians supposedly enacting amendments to strengthen our immigration laws? But I suspect this is the lull before the storm, which they will throw into the bubbling cauldron of issues, like health care and cap and trade? Immigration reform is the toxic sediment rising to the surface of the pool. We cannot blame President Bush for the immigration debacle completely, nor Clinton as this complete and utter disregard for border enforcement, has been ignored long before any of these administrations. Illegal immigration really became finally a damaging problem to the United States after the CAFTA treaty. Small farmers in Mexico lost their livelihood, when the giant agricultural consortium’s moved in. The (CFR) Council of foreign relations is a signature to an agenda, no borders between the US, Mexico and Canada.

    Promoted by the globalists in the (EU) European Union whose planned agenda was the open border movement? Europe has suddenly woken up to the mass immigration which has become a scourge, which is just now being recorded with an adverse impact. The indigenous people have found themselves prioritized into a second class citizenship. In America this is becoming de-javu, as an Americans are hounded by debt collectors and bankruptcy, while illegal immigrants pay nothing for health care services. But then illegal immigrant families cannot be truly blamed for low income services, as they have been drawn across the borders, from other lands by exploiting employers who pay nothing for there settlement here. That remains the burden of the gullible American taxpayer.

    Washington has absolutely ignored the millions of foreign laborers and families, who have arrived, now they have no choice but to exact punishment on the US taxpayer by legalizing those who are here. If their immigration reform is just a small fine, learn English and submit to a FBI background check, this will truly unfair to those sincere immigrants who wait for working visas in their country of residence. This to me is AMNESTY–by any other name. This goes against the essence of the US Constitution and our Rule of Law. It seems like Sen. Schumer, Reid, Speaker Pelosi adhere to our laws, when it suits them? The Democratic leadership de-funded E-Verify a while back, but the angry ire of voters appalled by the weakening of immigration laws, fired back with countless phone calls. We can now do the same with AMNESTY. How many realize the damage to our economy, by giving citizenship to over 20 plus foreign nationals in retirement benefits. Those legalized can be to our nation all their family members, known as chain migration.

    Outside of complimentary legalization for all those people–mostly poorly educated, unskilled will be competition with US workers of the same status. It makes no any sense to process these people who pay little or no taxes, when we are looking at 11 percent jobless Americans. We can start deporting all these illegal families, the criminals by implementing permanent E-Verify. Not just for Federal Contractors but everybody as a mandatory law. Discrepancies will be dealt with at the Social Security offices. NO MATCH LETTERS–is a supplementary workplace law that shouldn’t be rescinded? Don’t be misinformed by the pro-illegal immigrant organizations. Call and demand a permanent, mandated E-Verify and NO MORE AMNESTIES! The1986 IMMIGRATION REFORM BILL DIDN’T WORK–NOR WILL THIS? It will take time, but enforced E-Verify with all its updates will remove illegal workers from the office, factory floor. Call your Senator or Congressman 202-224-3121

    ATTENTION! Because of the massive payments to illegal immigrant benefits in California, their is now a petition to halt this travesty. Google–TAXPAYER REVOLUTION. Very few newspapers will mention this activist petition. For all the facts about OVERPOPULATION: CAPSWEB, NUMBERSUSA, FAIR & AMERICAN PATROL

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