House Appropriations Hurts Immigration Enforcement

New congressional restrictions on immigration enforcement should worry Americans about the direction of immigration policy after this year’s election. 

The Democratic majority on the House Appropriations Committee, led by North Carolina liberal David Price, put handcuffs on the popular 287(g) program.  The FY 2009 Homeland Security Appropriations bill shuts off nearly all enrollment of state and local police departments in this program.

The bill, as passed by the House Appropriations Committee, prohibits Homeland Security from “enter[ing] into any agreement delegating law enforcement to any state or political subdivision of a state as authorized under such section 287(g), other than at a jail, prison, or correctional institution . . . .”

The committee report explains, “[B]ill language is included requiring ICE to prioritize the delegation of federal immigration enforcement authorities to state and local correctional agencies, and to preclude the use of any funds for the delegation of federal authorities to organizations that fail to comply with the terms of their agreements.”

In other words, the bill curtails new 287(g) enrollment for police departments of states and localities.  A fig leaf implies police have abused their 287(g) delegated authority (which isn’t at all the case). 

The bill leaves open the remote possibility of new 287(g) participation by law enforcement agencies.  But the vast majority will be “agreements that will maximize the identification of aliens who are unlawfully present in the United States and have been convicted of dangerous crimes.”

Identifying criminal aliens quickly and putting them through deportation proceedings while they serve their prison sentences is important.  But a program for that already exists:  the Institutional Removal Program (renamed the Criminal Alien Program).

And the Democratic legislation goes overboard.  The language specifies that the targeted aliens should be both illegal aliens and “convicted of dangerous crimes.”  This will keep all but the most violent criminal aliens in the United States, because Congress has de-emphasized them that way.  This legislation is pro-criminal alien and pro-illegal immigration.

First, there’s no good reason to care whether a foreign-born criminal is a legal or illegal immigrant.  Either way, we should kick them out of this country forever.

Second, what do the bill’s authors consider “dangerous crimes?”  They don’t say.  Why should criminal aliens who have run up criminal records for offenses short of murder, rape or armed robbery get to stay here?

Some of us might consider drunk driving to be a dangerous crime (as do Price’s North Carolina colleagues Sue Myrick and Mike McIntyre).  Or ID fraud or theft — certainly not victimless crimes.  Or aiding and abetting a terrorist to exploit loopholes and get a driver’s license in order to get on a plane, as happened with 9/11 hijackers.

America has made great progress over the past several years involving state and local law enforcement to take illegal and criminal aliens off our streets, behind bars and deported quicker. 

The 287(g) program was created in 1996.  It was intended to give state and local police the option of being actively involved in immigration enforcement.  More and more states and localities have sought to join up, and these jurisdictions have aggressively adopted laws empowering their law officers and putting illegal and criminal aliens on the defensive.

Virtually unused until Alabama and Florida joined in 2003, some 55 jurisdictions (including Mecklenburg County and seven other North Carolina sheriff’s departments) and nearly 800 officers across the nation participate in the 287(g) program, says Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

About 80 new 287(g) requests are in the works.  More than 60,000 illegal or criminal aliens have been deported since January 2006, thanks to 287(g).

State legislatures increasingly seek to empower their police officers to go after illegal and criminal aliens.  The National Conference of State Legislatures recently reported that more than half of 1,100 immigrant-related bills filed address law enforcement.  Many of the nearly 200 bills in 35 states involving immigration policing authorize their states to participate in the 287(g) program.

With widespread, popular support for this program and its newfound success, the new majority running Congress is trying to shut off immigration enforcement.  Couple that weak-on-enforcement stance with Sen. Barak Obama’s proamnesty position, and the writing is on the wall.

If Democrats solidify their majorities in both houses of Congress, plus take over the administration, Americans fed up with mass immigration, illegal aliens and lax enforcement can expect the worst.  Unified liberal government will further emasculate immigration enforcement, push through amnesty, increase already intolerably high legal immigration and roll back every good immigration measure adopted since 1996.

The FY09 Homeland Security appropriation is just a precursor of the harmful direction “new management” will take the federal government.