DHS Inspector General's findings reveal a 287(g) program that is too flawed to fix

RWG renews calls for the termination of 287(g) program

 

Washington DC - April 2, 2010 -- The DHS Inspector General's audit of the 287(g) program paints a picture of a failed program.  It found the program inconsistent, lacking in oversight, training, communications and protections against racial profiling and other civil rights abuses.  The shortcomings of this program have been well documented by non-profit organizations, community groups, academics, and the general Accounting Office (GAO).  Now the Office of Inspector General has confirmed, through a thorough and detailed investigation, many of the allegations that have long been on the record.

While ICE has proposed changes in response to the Inspector General's recommendations, many of them were tied to the creation of a communications plan that does not actually address the substantive concerns raised in the audit.  "Better PR is not going to cure the flawed premise of this failed program," Said Margaret Huang, Executive Director of the Rights Working Group.

Notably, the one recommendation out of a total 33 that ICE rejected is data collection that would allow DHS to identify places where racial profiling may be occurring.  ICE's reasoning behind rejecting this suggestion is that the requirement is too onerous, that they don't support racial profiling and so the heightened data gathering is not warranted.  "ICE's response to this particular recommendation is revealing," said Jumana Musa, Policy Director for the Rights Working Group.  "They insist that racial profiling is not occurring, but they then refuse to track the data that would give evidence to their claim."

ICE also argue that it would be too difficult to disaggregate the actions of 287(g) officers occurring in their capacity as deputized agents from their work as local law enforcement officers.  The response hits upon one of the key problems with the 287(g) Task Force model - it is impossible to distinguish when an officer is acting under their own local authority and when they are invoking their 287(g) authority.  This lack of clarity is exactly what has caused community members to fear cooperation with the police - whether they are crime victims or witnesses.

"While it is a step forward for ICE to reinstate steering committees and promise more transparency, ICE actions do not go far enough to address the most serious concerns of the 287(g) program," said Huang.   "Without significant reforms, this program will continue to interfere with community policing, result in racial profiling and place communities at risk."

Rights Working Group has called for an end to the 287(g) program.  Short of ending the program, RWG recommends:

 

  • The Task Force model 287(g) contracts be eliminated;
  • Community members have a meaningful opportunity to weigh in on the application process of their local and state law enforcement agencies;
  • A more rigorous complaint process be instituted and publicized, including making it accessible to people in detention and for people whose primary language is not English and ensuring confidentiality for those filing complaints;
  • ICE be required to collect arrest data in 287(g) jurisdictions including the race, ethnicity, religion and national origin of the person arrested, the charges filed, how those charges match with ICE stated priorities and the ultimate disposition of the case;
  • 287(g) officers be given more robust training on federal immigration laws, federal civil rights laws and federal immigration crime victim protections.

 

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To read the DHS Inspector General's report please go to: http://www.dhs.gov/xoig/assets/mgmtrpts/OIG_10-63_Mar10.pdf

Formed in the aftermath of 9/11, the Rights Working Group is a coalition of more than 250 community-based grassroots groups and national organizations working to restore civil liberties and human rights protections for all people living in the U.S.