Police departments across the United States are applying for, and participating in, a program that will allow them to exercise power similar to immigration officers to assist in the deportation of illegal immigrants.
The program, known as 287(g), allows for law enforcement officers to receive training from federal agents that will allow them to use federal records to see if arrestees are in the country illegally. If the officers find that the person they have arrested is in the country illegally, they can turn the individual over to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. According to reporting from Reuters, 29 departments have joined the program since President Trump took office, effectively doubling its size.
As Reuters explains, President Trump's decision to expand the program via an executive order stands in stark contrast to actions taken by former President Obama.
Under President Barack Obama, the 287(g) program was downsized and its funding reduced amid concerns that some participating police departments were over-zealous in their targeting of Latinos. Critics also said it eroded trust of police in immigrant communities. By the end of fiscal year 2016 only 32 agreements were left in place, down from a peak in 2010 when some 70 jurisdictions were participating. Today, 60 departments in 18 states participate.
Most police departments participating in the program have a citizen population of 100,000 or less, and 75 percent are in counties that President Trump won in last year's election. However, some counties that are currently participating won't be at the start of the New Year. Due to the implementation of a state law that will protect illegal immigrants in "sanctuary cities," law enforcement officers in Orange County, California will not be allowed to ask a suspect about their immigration status.
While there are concerns that allowing law enforcement officers to exercise this power will affect how illegal immigrants trust these police departments, and while there are worries that illegal immigrants with valuable information concerning crimes will not come forward due to fears of deportation, some officials are not bothered by the risk.
Fred Harran, the director of public safety in the township of Bensalem, Pennsylvania told Reuters, "If deporting you out of this country when you commit a crime is a tool at my disposal, you are darn right I am going to use it."