U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a division
of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has added
two more members to its growing family: the Sheriff's
Offices of Hall County and Whitfield County, Georgia.
Hall and Whitfield teamed up with ICE pursuant to Section
287(g) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant
Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA), a provision of law by which the
DHS can enter into agreements with state and local law
enforcement agencies. The 287(g) program is one component of
the ICE ACCESS (Agreements of Cooperation in Communities to
Enhance Safety and Security) umbrella of services offered to
assist local law enforcement officers. ICE ACCESS provides
local law enforcement agencies an opportunity to team up with
ICE to address specific challenges in their communities, such
as gangs, document fraud, and the presence of a criminal
Under a 287(g) Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) defining the
scope and limitations of their authority, state and local law
enforcement officers are designated to perform immigration law
enforcement functions following the receipt of appropriate ICE
training. It is this rigorous training in which the Hall and
Whitfield officers now find themselves immersed. For five
intense weeks, the officers will be grilled on subjects ranging
from immigration law and intercultural relations to using DHS
databases to identify criminals and immigration violators.
To date, the government reports that it has enjoyed
tremendous success with the 287(g) program. It is reported that
34 local law enforcement agencies in Alabama, Arizona,
California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, North
Carolina, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia have
signed MOAs with ICE and nearly 600 officers have been trained
and certified to enforce immigration law. Over the past two
years, those officers have been credited for identifying more
than 37,000 people with possible immigration violations.
ICE boasts numerous 287(g) "success stories,"
including the Mecklenburg, North Carolina Sheriff's
Office, which examined over 1,600 arrestees and placed 853 of
them in deportation proceedings during the first nine months
that it participated in the program. Similarly, in Alabama, ICE
reports that state troopers work in conjunction with motor
vehicle licensing stations to check the immigration status of
all foreign nationals applying for driver's licenses.
This partnership has led to numerous convictions for using
fraudulent documents to obtain Alabama driver's
Indeed, the proof is in the pudding. For 2008, the federal
government has allocated more than $25 million dollars to the
287(g) program – a significant gain on the $15
million dollars that the program received last year.
As ICE puts it, "[s]tate and local law enforcement play
a critical role in protecting our homeland security because
they are often the first responders on the scene when there is
an incident or attack against the United States. Terrorism and
criminal activity are most effectively combated through a
multi-agency/multi-authority approach that encompasses federal,
state and local resources, skills and expertise." Hall
County Sheriff Steve Cronic reportedly stated that "this
program is not anti-immigrant; its focus is simply those
individuals who have entered our country illegally and continue
to break the law while here."
Although its true effects on the employment and business
worlds have yet to be seen, the popularity of the 287(g)
program further feeds the firestorm of immigration enforcement
actions being taken across the country. Indeed, the local
agencies' participation in the 287(g) program comes
just on the heels of a new Georgia state law regulating Form
I-9 verification procedures. Like many states across the
country, Georgia has jumped on the enforcement bandwagon in
enacting Senate Bill 529 (Official Code of Georgia §
13-10-91), requiring public contractors to confirm the work
eligibility of their employees using the federal
government's E-Verify program. In addition, this new
state law mandates that public contractors submit statements of
compliance and respond to information requests propounded by
state government agencies. Therefore, employers are cautioned
to strictly comply with immigration laws and contact counsel
immediately in the event of an audit by ICE or the U.S.
Department of Labor (DOL).
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