Report: Local Cops Abuse Federal Immigration Authority

A report released last night to the House Committee on Homeland Security from the General Accounting Office (GAO) says that poor oversight of a controversial program that trains state and local police to identify illegal immigrants involved in crime has allowed some cops to focus on minor busts rather than serious offenses.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department is not only among the agencies that participates in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) training, but it was one of the forces visited by the federal investigators who drafted the report, which states the program is intended by ICE to address "serious crime . . . committed by removable aliens." The ICE field office in Santa Ana was also visited.

The GAO report said that of OCSD and 28 other partner agencies reviewed, four said they used their new authority to process for removal immigrants stopped for minor violations such as speeding, carrying an open container of alcohol and urinating in public, "contrary to the objective of the program." Those four individual departments were not identified. In fact, the study generalizes with numbers, stating, for example, "18 of 29 agencies reported this..."

Known as 287(g) after the legal provision authorizing it, the identification program has expanded rapidly in recent years, receiving $60 million between 2006 and 2008, training 951 state and local law enforcement officers in 67 agencies, and resulting in the arrests of at least 43,000 immigrants, almost 28,000 of whom ultimately were ordered out of the country, the Washington Post reports.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently ordered a review of the 287(g) program by the GAO (one of the best places to work in the federal government 2007, according to its website, which has the report available for download). The congressional panel requested copies before hearings today on 287(g).

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