Republicans Say Obama Administration Is Limiting Arrests of Illegal Aliens

By Penny Starr | October 30, 2009 | 8:45am EDT
( – Fifty-four members of Congress, mostly Republicans, have signed a letter to President Barack Obama praising the 287(g) program that allows specially trained state and local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration law.
The Oct. 26 letter comes shortly after the Obama administration imposed new limits on state and local law enforcers, preventing them from arresting many of the illegal immigrants with whom they come into contact.

Instead of allowing local police to arrest people simply for being in the United States illegally, the Obama administration has now established categories of illegal aliens who are a “priority for arrest and detention.”
Those priorities include aliens convicted of or arrested for major crimes, including drug offenses and murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, and kidnapping; aliens convicted of or arrested for minor drug offenses and property crimes such as burglary, larceny, fraud, and money laundering; and aliens who have been convicted of or arrested for “other offenses.”
Rep. Lamar Smith, ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, said contrary to claims that it was supposed to focus only on serious crimes, the 287(g) program was intended to allow states and local law enforcement officials to enforce all immigration laws – “not just a select few.”
“One of the most effective things we can do to prevent illegal immigrant crimes in the first place is to deport illegal immigrants before they’ve committed one, whether they are identified in jails or by law enforcement task forces,” Smith said.
Smith and the other letter-signers are urging the Obama administration not to “politicize this highly effective immigration enforcement and public safety program.”
Thanks to the 287(g) program, they said, thousands of illegal immigrants who are identified in jails and through task force operations are being deported. Smith added that the “open borders crowd” doesn’t like the program because it is working.
The 287(g) program – created by the Clinton-era Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 -- is operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.
In a speech in August, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) allowing state and local law enforcement to participate in the 287(g) program had been “rewritten and reprioritized to focus on using them in jails and prisons.”
But in their Oct. 26 letter, lawmakers noted, “While the majority of the current 287(g) programs follow the jail intake model, the task force model is also a highly effective means of removing illegal immigrants from the streets. Both should be continued,” the letter said.

To date, more than 60 law enforcement agencies have either signed or agreed to sign the revised MOA.
As reported earlier by, only one local law enforcement agency has had its immigration enforcement authority curbed.
In September, ICE notified Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio that it was terminating his department’s authority to conduct “sweeps” (task force model) for illegal aliens. Arpaio’s department is still allowed to identify illegal aliens being held in Maricopa County jails.

Arpaio, who actively sought to identify illegal aliens flowing into his community, is now under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for possible civil rights violations.
Republicans note that the revised MOA also requires local and state law enforcement to get approval from ICE before releasing information about immigration enforcement activities to the media or the public.
“Federal, state, and local cooperation is key to combating illegal immigration,” the Oct. 26 letter concluded. “So it is crucial for the federal government to continue to support the range of 287(g) operational programs in jurisdictions throughout the United States.”
The only Democrat signing the Oct. 26 letter was Rep. Heath Shuler of N.C.

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