Hispanic Caucus Calls for Ending Program That Identified 100,000 Illegal Aliens, Many With Criminal Records

Penny Starr, CNS News, October 2, 2009

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has asked the Obama administration to “immediately terminate” a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program that has identified more than 120,000 illegal aliens over the past three years..

“On behalf of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), we write to ask that you immediately terminate all Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) under the 287(g) program and cease to establish such agreements,” reads the letter to President Obama.

“These agreements are the subject of serious concern as local law enforcement agencies have used the new powers to target communities of color, including a disproportionate number of Latinos, for arrest,” says the letter. “The 287(g) program, which was significantly expanded throughout the Bush Administration, relinquishes the power to enforce federal immigration laws to local law enforcement and corrections agencies. . . . The misuse of the 287(g) program by its current participants has rendered it ineffective and dangerous to community safety.”

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The Sept. 28 letter is signed by caucus leaders Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) and Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.).

The letter cites a March 2009 Government Accountability Office report that “found alarming examples of mismanagement and insufficient oversight of this controversial program.”

However, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said 287(g) has undergone a “sea change” since the “standardization” of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was announced by Secretary Janet Napolitano in July, and that the changes were designed to make the program more accountable.

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The letter from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus says state and local law enforcement “use their expanded and often unchecked powers under the 287(g) program to target immigrants and persons of color.”

“It is our opinion that no amount of reforms, no matter how well-intended, will change this disturbing reality,” the letter states.

CNSNews.com sent inquiries by e-mail and telephone to Reps. Gutierrez and Velazquez to explain how federal immigration law could be better enforced in the United States if the 287(g) is eliminated. The representatives were also asked to comment on the success of the program, which since January 2007 has identified more than 120,000 individuals as “potentially removable aliens,” most of whom are incarcerated in local jails, according to DHS.

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