Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano is not a fan of a key provision of the federal program that allows state and local police to enforce federal immigration laws — but until Thursday her department’s website hadn’t gotten the message.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the part of her agency that handles the so-called “287(g) agreements” with states and localities, had a Web page dedicated to success stories from the program, pointing to the many dangerous criminal aliens who had been taken off the streets after local authorities nabbed them for another offense.
“I would tell the people who are working on the website, take it down,” she said during the hearing. And even before the hearing gaveled to a close, the page was gone.
The 287(g) program has two parts: task-force agreements, which give state and local police the power to process suspects for immigration violations; and the jail model, which only gets local authorities involved after someone has been booked into a jail or prison.
Ms. Napolitano said the task-force model costs 10 times as much per deportation as does the jail model or “Secure Communities,” another program designed to check prison populations for potentially deportable immigrants.
Hours after the Supreme Court last month upheld the part of Arizona’s law empowering local police to question immigration status of those they believe to be in the country illegally, Ms. Napolitano canceled the seven task-force agreements her department had with Arizona law enforcement agencies.
At Thursday’s hearing, Mr. Goodlatte tried to find out why — and pointed to the list of success stories on ICE’s website.
“Why are you touting them if they’re success stories in a program that you think is otherwise flawed?” he said, adding that the program has proved to be popular with departments in his own state of Virginia.
“There may be some success stories,” Ms. Napolitano replied, but said they were switching to the more cost-effective models.
“It doesn’t work. The program is expensive, and it doesn’t work the way Congress intended,” she said.
She and President Obama have taken steps recently to try to restrict the classes of illegal immigrants eligible for deportation, making it less likely that average illegal immigrants will be deported and instead focusing on those who have criminal records or have committed multiple immigration violations.
The Homeland Security secretary sparred with a number of Republicans on the panel throughout the morning over that decision, with Ms. Napolitano at one point rejecting a point-blank request from one GOP lawmaker to rescind the president’s move.
“This unprecedented decision ignores the rule of law that is the foundation of our democracy,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, in his opening remarks. While “the executive branch does have the power of prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis, but this authority cannot be used to systematically dismantle our immigration laws,” Mr. Smith added.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.