- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2018

The Trump administration has overextended a program designed to recruit local police departments to assist in immigration enforcement, shirking the planning and technology needed to make the operation work, an inspector general reported Monday.

Known as 287(g), the controversial program has more than doubled under President Trump, from 36 to 76 local departments that were participating as of this spring.

But U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has botched the expansion, allowing police to sign up without ensuring they’ve been trained, and failing to get them the computers they need to identify and detain illegal immigrants, Homeland Security’s inspector general said.

Congress has also shortchanged the program’s finances, leaving it without the money to hire program managers to oversee the local departments that are signing up, the audit found.

The report suggests corner-cutting on a major priority of President Trump, who campaigned on recruiting local police to help enforce immigration law, and who made expansion of the 287(g) program part of one of his first executive orders.

Immigrant-rights activists are harshly critical of the 287(g) program and convinced the Obama administration to curtail it, arguing it snared too many illegal immigrants with lower-level criminal records.

They also worried it would lead to civil rights abuses.

While the inspector general’s report didn’t delve into those issues, it did conclude that police may be shirking the training they’re supposed to get. The local officers are dubbed “Designated Immigration Officers,” or DIOs, in government-speak.

“Although the 287(g) program management has provided guidance for online training requirements, it is not monitoring DIOs to ensure they are completing the online courses, nor did it revoke DIOs’ authority as required by ICE policy,” the inspector general concluded.

Under 287(g), designated police can encounter illegal immigrants, check their deportation eligibility and begin filing charging documents that serve as the basis for deportation.

Each of those must be overseen by ICE program managers, though — and ICE has been slow to hire enough people, the audit concluded.

ICE, in its official response, accepted most of the inspector general’s recommendations for improvement, including hiring more program managers and making sure their duties are clear.

“We remain committed to strengthening its 287(g) program, which enhances the safety and security of communities by partnering with state and local law enforcement agencies to identify and remove criminal aliens,” wrote Stephen A. Roncone, chief financial officer at ICE.

A spokeswoman for the agency said they are monitoring interest levels among police departments to see what sort of staffing ICE will need in the future.

And she said they are working to clean up the hiccups in training and to get a clearer reporting structure in place.

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