Last week the Government Accountability Offices (GAO) released a report calling for better oversight of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) 287(g) state and local law enforcement training program. We agree that the program could use additional oversight, but the GAO report also recommends a fundamental rethinking of the program that defeats its original purpose.

Heritage analysts Jena Baker McNeill and Diem Nguyen explain:

The report proposes that the program’s objective should be to only address serious criminal activity and that officers who check the immigration status of those committing minor offenses are in violation of the spirit of the program. But GAO admits that such an objective is not required in the statute or the legislative history, and the law does not prevent 287(g) participants from inquiring into the immigration status of those apprehended for minor offenses.

The fallacy of the GAO’s suggested objective could not be clearer than in the example of Mohammad Atta. Atta, one of the September 11 hijackers, was pulled over in a minor traffic stop two days before the 9/11 attacks. Under GAO’s proposed objectives, because Atta’s traffic offense was minor, it would not have warranted an inquiry into his immigration status. But had the officer inquired into his immigration status–even though it was only a minor offense–they would have found he was in the country illegally and could have prevented his participation in the attacks, or perhaps prevented 9/11 all together.