Leah Barkoukis
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Fundamentally transforming things seems to be a pastime for President Obama, with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency as no exception. The DHS budget request for the upcoming year has essentially put an end to the very successful program that combats illegal immigration known as 287(g), which gives state and local law enforcement agencies the authority to enforce federal immigration law for ICE throughout the country.

The Texas Insider sums up the program:

Simply put, [287(g)] allows officers to check the immigration status of suspects and place immigration holds on them in the absence of an established fingerprint record (or participation in the Secure Communities program). Agencies like the Colorado Department of Public Safety have used their 287(g) officers to crackdown on drug and human smuggling, gang activity and identity theft. But the program was too successful for Obama’s liking.

Through 287(g) more than 1,300 officers have been trained and certified leading to over 120,000 people being identified as illegal immigrants. Under President George W. Bush the program peaked with 60 local agencies signing contracts to implement the program whereas only eight agencies have under President Obama.

Thus, it’s no surprise that the first attack on the program began in 2009:

In its first attack on this successful program, on July 9, 2009, the Obama Administration announced plans to make the MOAs [Memoranda of Agreement] “more uniform.” However, the announced changes went to the heart of the program and disrupted any real attempt to enforce the law.

The first change required local law enforcement to pursue all criminal charges against those individuals who are apprehended. In practice, and for good reason, law enforcement would often start removal proceedings if they found someone to be illegally present instead of going through a costly and lengthy criminal process that would end in the same result. Requiring criminal prosecution put a severe drain on the resources of the local jurisdictions—and for no legitimate reason.

It gets better:

The second change limited the use of immigration checks to those who are arrested for “major” offenses. But most illegal immigrants who commit crimes commit misdemeanors, not felonies. Given that one of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohammad Atta, was pulled over in a traffic stop (a minor offense) two days before the 9/11 attacks, there is significant benefit to checking the immigration status of all individuals who are arrested. Had the officer inquired about Atta, he might have found that Atta was in the country illegally and therefore might well have prevented his participation in the attacks.

The implicit insinuation of the July 2009 changes was that local law enforcement agencies routinely abused their powers under Section 287(g). Signaling that they would be second-guessed by ICE dissuaded many agencies from participating in the program.

The fact that not a single new contract has been signed since August 2010 probably has a lot to do with this. Now, DHS wants to stop the program in its entirety, officially announcing that they will not sign new contracts and attempt to “terminate” the “least productive” MOAs. As its replacement, USA Today writes:

In its budget request, DHS said officials instead will focus on expanding Secure Communities, a program that checks the fingerprints of all people booked into local jails against federal immigration databases. The follow up work in those cases is done by ICE agents, not local police.

The eradication of 287(g) will certainly weaken immigration enforcement and it seems just as Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies observes: DHS once again "putting politics ahead of public safety."

So with successful programs being eliminated, inferior and contrary agenda’s being implemented and illegal populations that have stopped declining under the president, we have an administration that is undermining the very purpose and essence of ICE. It’s no wonder the agency is ranked as one of the worst places to work in the federal government.

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Leah Barkoukis

Leah Barkoukis is the Assistant Editor at Townhall.com/Townhall Magazine.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography