Given President Trump’s promises to deport as many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. as possible, it was inevitable that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would need considerable assistance from local law enforcement agencies.
Now, some local governments hope to take advantage of two ICE programs to make a little money in the process, an investigation by the Austin American–Statesman found.
The story begins with Walker County, TX, which decided to build a $20 million jail in a community of just 70,000 people. To help pay for that jail, the newspaper reports, the “Walker County sheriff’s office is getting into the immigration business.”
Walker County and other local governments across the U.S. are doing this by combining two ICE programs that together “create a profit incentive.” One program is section 287(g) of the federal Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which allows state and local law enforcement officers to be trained and certified as immigration officers. The other allows ICE to hold unauthorized immigrants in county jails for a fee, the newspaper reported.
ICE spokeswoman Sarah Rodriguez denies that the two programs are connected, and she downplayed the allegation that local law enforcement agencies could turn Trump’s crackdown on unauthorized immigrants into a revenue–generating scheme.
But the Statesman’s reporting showed this is already happening in some communities:
At least 16 counties across the country already have both, according to a list of 287(g) agreements posted on ICE’s website and a list of ICE detention facilities from April. Lubbock County in West Texas, which recently started its 287(g) program and collects $65 a day for each ICE detainee it houses, is the only Lone Star State jurisdiction among them, but three others are aiming to join.
Smith County in East Texas, which already has a detention agreement, is pursuing a 287(g), county officials have said. The ACLU of Texas reported in April that the Houston area’s Montgomery County, which already also has a detention agreement, has applied for a 287(g). And Walker County is pursuing both agreements for the first time this year…
The Trump administration’s budget calls for the 287(g) program to be expanded by 70%, reporter Sean Collins Walsh wrote, and enrollment in that program has increased by 50% in the past five months alone.
Not all 287(g) agreements allow local law enforcement officers to make immigration arrests, Collins Walsh points out. But Texas already has passed an “anti–sanctuary city” law to punish jurisdictions for failing to cooperate with the federal immigration crackdown. It’s not hard, then, to see the next logical step would be to provide financial incentives to do so.
The current situation in immigrant communities in the U.S. already is terrifying, with ICE officers rounding up anyone from high school students to the chronically ill. This latest development could make that situation much scarier.