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Gail S. Seeram

The 287(g) program allows state and local police to check the immigration status of individuals during routine traffic stops, being booked into county/state jail and inmates being housed and released from prison.

Section 287(g) of the INA, as amended, authorizes Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) to enter into written agreements under which state or local law enforcement agencies may perform, at their own expense and under the supervision of ICE officers, certain functions of an immigration officer in relation to the investigation, apprehension, or detention of aliens in the United States.

The statute also provides that such an agreement is not required for state and local officers to communicate with ICE regarding the immigration status of an individual or otherwise to cooperate with ICE in the identification and removal of aliens not lawfully present in the United States. Thus, 287(g) agreements go beyond state and local officers' existing ability to obtain immigration status information from ICE and to alert ICE to any removable aliens they identify.

Under these agreements, state and local officers are to have direct access to ICE databases and act in the stead of ICE agents by processing aliens for removal. They are authorized to initiate removal proceedings by preparing a notice to appear in immigration court and transporting aliens to ICE-approved detention facilities for further proceedings.

Within the 287(g) program, ICE has developed three models for state and local law enforcement participation. One model, referred to as the "jail model," allows for correctional officers working in state prisons or local jails to screen those arrested or convicted of crimes by accessing federal databases to ascertain a person's immigration status.

Another option, referred to as the "task force model," allows law enforcement officers participating in criminal task forces such as drug or gang task forces to screen arrested individuals using federal databases to assess their immigration status.

ICE has approved some local law enforcement agencies to concurrently implement both models, an arrangement referred to as the "joint model." Both ICE and state and local law enforcement agencies participating in the 287(g) program have reported activities, benefits and concerns associated with the program. As of October 2008, ICE reported that 67 state and local law enforcement agencies had enrolled in the 287(g) program, and that about 25 state and local jurisdiction program applications were pending.

In addition, ICE reported that 951 state and local officers received training in immigration law and enforcement functions and were certified to use 287(g) authority.

In fiscal years 2006-2008, ICE received about $60 million to train, supervise, and equip program participants. As of October 2008, ICE reported enrolling 67 agencies and training 951 state and local law enforcement officers. According to data provided by ICE for 25 of the 29 program participants reviewed by GAO, during fiscal year 2008, about 43,000 aliens had been arrested pursuant to the program, and of those, ICE detained about 34,000.

About 41 percent of those detained were placed in removal proceedings, and an additional 44 percent agreed to be voluntarily removed.

Gail S. Seeram, an immigration attorney, handles cases involving family petitions, business/investors visas, citizenship, deportation, asylum, work authorization and extension of status. Call her office toll- free at 1-877-GAIL-LAW (1-877-424-5529), send an email at or visit

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