The House passed two closely watched immigration bills this week, one of which seeks to impose penalties on localities that refuse to assist federal officials in enforcing immigration laws.
Such localities are better known today as “sanctuary cities.”
While sanctuary cities are a serious problem, not all localities are opposed to helping enforce federal law.
The truth is actually quite the opposite. More jurisdictions across the country, like Maryland’s Anne Arundel County, are looking to do their part by joining the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 287(g) program.
The 287(g) program authorizes immigration enforcement officials to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies. These agreements allow designated officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions, so long as they have received appropriate training from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The 287(g) program currently has 45 law enforcement agencies participating in 18 states, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement has trained and certified 1,822 officers.
Of these participating municipalities, 11 of the memorandums of agreement have been signed since the Trump administration assumed office.
While this increase in participation is to be lauded, there is still room for improvement.
Under the current process, the Department of Homeland Security must approve every application to join the 287(g) program. Under the Obama administration, the department frequently rejected and removed localities from the 287(g) program if they were too vigorous in enforcing the law.
The exact reverse should be true. Every local law enforcement agency should be allowed to participate in the program, unless the Department of Homeland Security has legitimate grounds to refuse them.
Presidents will come and go, but no law enforcement entity should have to jump through political hoops at the Department of Homeland Security in order to help enforce our immigration laws.
With almost 1 million state and local law enforcement officers serving across the country, the U.S. would be neglecting a valuable tool in fighting the immigration crisis if it did not utilize these local assets.
The 287(g) program is a cost-effective, force-multiplying effort for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Congress and the Department of Homeland Security should continue to expand the program.