Dozens of Democratic lawmakers earlier this month urged the Biden administration to terminate the cooperative agreements between the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement and their state and local law enforcement partners under what is known as the 287(g) program.

Such a reflexive policy decision, if pursued, would be a dangerous and reckless move that would place local communities at greater risk of preventable criminal activity

The 287(g) program, created more than 20 years ago, allows ICE to confer upon interested and qualified state or local law enforcement agencies limited immigration enforcement authorities.

Practically speaking, the program allows trained local law enforcement partners to identify suspected illegal immigrants among their local criminally incarcerated populations and to then transmit that information to ICE for potential enforcement.

These state and local law enforcement partners act as force multipliers for ICE, and the collaborative relationship allows the jurisdictions they serve to benefit from the potential removal of often dangerous and habitual criminals from within their communities.  

Although largely abandoned under the Obama administration, during the past four years, we sought to grow and expand the program to include dozens of new partners in communities across the nation, communities particularly affected by the ancillary effects of an unsecured border.

Those voluntary partnerships have proved beneficial to both DHS and the local jurisdictions. 

Unlike some mischaracterizations of the program may suggest, 287(g) has never been a matter of federal law enforcement commandeering state and local personnel and resources into doing their work for them.

Participating agencies sought to enter into those partnerships voluntarily, knowing the tremendous public safety benefits that they could realize by partnering with their federal counterparts. In fact, over the past four years, we had more state and local law enforcement agencies seek participation in the 287(g) program than we could accommodate. 

Having spent nearly two decades in local law enforcement prior to joining DHS, I know firsthand the benefits of strong federal, state, and local collaboration. These multijurisdictional task forces and partnerships have been essential to the dismantling of a wide array of criminal enterprises, including child exploitation and drug and weapons sales, as well as transnational criminal activity.

No matter the specific area of enforcement, collaboration and open communication is always preferable to isolation and willful silence. 

Some members of Congress and elements within the Biden administration might feel the desire to reflexively cancel, alter, or repudiate any and all policy directives of the Trump administration.

That may be especially so in the often contentious area of immigration enforcement. But policy decisions, especially those concerning national security and public safety, must not be made solely through political lenses.

Working with our state and local partners to empower them to improve the public safety of their own communities is a commonsense measure that should be encouraged and expanded, not discouraged and vilified. 

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