Getting local law enforcement involved in enforcing the nation’s immigration laws is a controversial but unquestionably effective step in in terms of controlling our borders.

Section 287g of the Immigration and Nationality Act was created to authorize state and local law enforcement officers to receive training to enforce immigration laws. The cross designation provision is intended to serve as another “tool” to help public safety officers keep our communities safe. However, this “tool” continues to be a topic of controversy in many of the jurisdictions that are considering applying for this authority from the Department of Homeland Security.

Advocates of the provision argue that it will have an immediate impact on crime by removing illegal aliens who commit crimes in the U.S through deportation proceedings. Its detractors argue that it discourages illegal aliens from reporting crimes and cooperating with law enforcement authorities for fear that “contact” will subject them to deportation proceedings.

If you commit a crime in the United States, you subject yourself to investigation, not only of your activities, but also your identity. Part of establishing a person’s “identity” is a review of biographical information that includes date and place of birth, address, employment, height, weight, color of hair/eyes, social security number, passport, driver’s license, birth certificate, library card, etc. Can any law enforcement officer ignore the fact that someone who admits to being born outside the United States is required to establish proof of his/her right to be in the U.S.?

According to a DHS/Immigration and Customs website (updated 3-10-2008), local law enforcement officers (660 trained and certified officers) have identified over 45,000 individuals for immigration violations through use of their 287g authority. These individuals were placed under deportation proceedings and a majority were deported from the United States. Unless they have illegally re-entered the U.S. (which constitutes a felony defense), they are no longer here to participate in additional criminal activity. How many “recidivist” crimes has this eliminated ?

This is a tool that can be abused, but it is too effective to be ignored. DHS and the 287g “certified” departments/agencies must ensure that they are operating within the spirit of the provision to maintain the confidence of the communities the provision is designed to serve.