Eleanor Stables has an excellent report in Congressional Quarterly on the growing interest and support among local law enforcement for enforcing immigration violations. She does a good job of presenting both sides of the debate. Not all local police want the burden — or potential political backlash — of dealing with the massive challenge of illegal immigration. My own experience in this debate is that those who are opposed often misrepresent the program (or simply don’t understand it) as requiring local police to initiate immigration sweeps. One current Governor even suggested that state troopers would end up personally driving illegal aliens to the border. This isn’t true at all.

As Stables reports:

The officers make only probable cause stops, such as for speeding or driving while intoxicated. Before they had 287(g) authority, if an officer stopped a driver and found a car of suspected illegal immigrants he would sometimes have to wait hours for ICE to arrive and take over, Watkins said in an interview. That would prevent the officer from doing other work, and sometimes the officer would be called away and the illegal immigrants would be free to go, he said. Now the officers can put illegal immigrants in custody and begin the deportation process.

In other uses of the program, before releasing inmates at the end of their sentence, 287(g)-authorized officers confirm inmates are illegal immigrants, issue them a court date, and ensure they are not released when their regular prison term ends.

The Hispanic elephant in the living room that nobody wants to talk about is this: Those who call for greater enforcement of immigration laws rarely acknowledge that the entire agent force of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is about 6,000. And those agents are spread among a variety of critical homeland security missions that range from combating money laundering and financial crime to weapons smuggling to immigration enforcement.

Even if all 6,000 agents were dedicated to immigration enforcement, which they’re not, you still face the daunting challenge of this small force being responsible for tracking down more than 11 million illegal aliens. The laws of physics suggest this ain’t gonna happen.

The answer is a massive infusion of resources into ICE and CBP in the Department of Homeland Security … or more partnerships with state and local law enforcement. The laws of politics and economics suggest that the latter is a more realistic alternative.

Chris Battle founded Security Debrief as a forum for the homeland security community to discuss pressing issues and current debates in national security, counter-terrorism and law enforcement. After a long fight against kidney cancer, Chris passed in August 2013. Read More