287(g) immigration enforcement programs costing local communities

A new report from the conservative Center for Immigration Studies makes a point of praising the so-called 287(g) program, calling it very “cost-effective.” The program, which was just renewed by the Obama administration, grants broad immigration enforcement powers to local law enforcement agencies.

Although the program may be cost-effective for the federal government, there is some evidence that increased costs to local law enforcement agencies are significant.

Writes CIS:

ice raid

287(g) is cost-effective — much less expensive than other criminal alien identification programs such as Secure Communities and Fugitive Operations. For example, in 2008 ICE spent $219 million to remove 34,000 fugitive aliens (mostly criminals). In 2008, ICE was given $40 million for 287(g), which produced more than 45,000 arrests of aliens who were involved in state and local crimes. In Harris County, Texas, the billion-dollar ICE Secure Communities interoperability program found about 1,718 removable aliens in its first six months beginning late in 2008; meanwhile the locally paid 287(g) officers in the same jail system charged about 5,000 criminal aliens over the same time period.

But a recent article in the San Bernardino Sun notes that taxpayers in San Bernardino, Calif., have spent an estimated $54.5 million to jail illegal immigrants since 2004. Federal officials have reimbursed the county only $6.7 million in that time, through the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, reports the Sun.

Some critics question whether the program is helping taxpayers or hurting them.

“It’s a burdensome cost to the local government,” said Suzanne Foster, policy committee chairwoman for the Justice for Immigrants Coalition of Inland Southern California. “ICE does provide initial training, but it does not fund the screening process, overtime hours, or any part of the housing of inmates. … It has been found all over the country to be quite burdensome to the local governments, costing taxpayers more than is necessary.”

And in Harris County, Texas, where the county commissioners recently voted to renew the 287(g) program, the county estimated that the program cost it nearly $1 million a year, according to the Houston Chronicle:

The county will pay about $928,000 a year in overhead and salaries for eight sheriff’s employees needed to screen jail prisoners around the clock, according to the budget office review.

And finally–a recent posting at a blog written by the Immigration Policy Center, not only directly refuted any claim that 287(g) agreements save communities money, it explained why:

CIS Assertion: 287(g) agreements result in cost savings for localities.

FACT: While Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) covers the cost of training deputized local officers and some detention costs, ICE does not pay for implementation of the program or any lawsuits that may arise due to civil rights violations. Local communities are responsible for the high costs related to the immigration enforcement activities. A report by the Brookings Institute found that Prince William County, Virginia, had to raise property taxes and take from its “rainy day” fund to help fund their 287(g) program. Their local law enforcement of immigration, which cost $6.4 million in its first year, is projected to cost $26 million over five years. They eventually slashed $3.1 million from the budget that was intended to buy video cameras for police cars to protect themselves against allegations of racial profiling. Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio created a $1.3 million deficit in just three months, much of it due to overtime for immigration enforcement.

In Colorado, both the El Paso Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado Department of Public Safety have 287(g) agreements with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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Katie Redding

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