Pursuing its goal of identifying, arresting and deporting alien criminals, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has expanded its controversial 287(g) and Secure Communities programs. Section 287(g) gives local law enforcement agencies the power to enforce federal immigration law, while Secure Communities checks detainees’ fingerprints against federal databases for criminal or immigration status violations.

According to an Immigration Policy Center study released this week,

over the last two years, the Obama administration has committed itself to a full‐court press to demonstrate how committed the administration is to removing criminals and others who remain in the country without proper documentation. They have continued to use the enforcement programs of the previous administration, including partnering with state and local law enforcement agencies to identify, detain, and deport immigrants.

In early October, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced that the administration has deployed unprecedented infrastructure, technology and manpower — including more than 17,000 Border Patrol agents and 1,200 National Guardsmen now stationed at the southwest border.

Napolitano also announced that, for fiscal year 2010, ICE removed more than 392,000 illegal aliens, over half of which (more than 195,000) were convicted criminal aliens.

The Immigration Policy Center report states:

ICE has, in effect, outsourced the identification of immigrants for enforcement actions to local police agencies and jails. However, programs such as Secure Communities and 287(g) undermine ICE’s priorities because they are designed in such a way that leads to the deportation of immigrants with minor criminal offenses or no criminal history at all.

Not only do these new partnerships take the initial identification and arrest outside of ICE’s control, they exacerbate the potential for profiling and pretextual arrests, which in turn take the focus off of serious criminals and lead to the arrest of large numbers of people for minor offenses.

Both 287(g) and Secure Communities have proven controversial, and have encountered resistance because of concerns about racial profiling, civil rights and due process violations as well as the way programs are expanded without community knowledge.

Regarding 287(g) concerns, the Immigration Policy Center report indicates ICE made changes in July 2009, announcing fundamental changes to the 287(g) program, “strengthening public safety and ensuring consistency in immigration enforcement across the country by prioritizing the arrest and detention of criminal aliens.”

But a September Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General report shows ICE has yet to implement 28 of 33 recommendations on how to improve 287(g). And Secure Communities statistics show that people identified by Secure Communities “include large numbers of individuals with no criminal history, individuals charged with (but not convicted of) crimes, and legal immigrants with prior convictions that make them deportable.”

The Immigration Policy Center highlights how ICE data shows an increase in the percentage of deportations of “criminal aliens” or “convicted criminal aliens,” but that the numbers also show many of those “criminals” committed low-level offenses and misdemeanors, and that many non-criminals continue to be deported.

The report concludes that

ICE has taken important steps toward acknowledging that its enforcement programs do not necessarily prioritize serious criminals, and ICE has also taken important steps toward defining its priorities and ensuring that ICE agents and officers act in line with the agency’s stated priorities. However, ICE’s memos, guidance, and training can only go so far in terms of ensuring that ICE’s enforcement resources are directed toward identifying, detaining, and deporting the “worst of the worst.”

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