The enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), made headlines recently for, in effect, failing to prioritize genuine threats to the community. In a leaked memo first reported in The Washington Post, ICE’s director of Detention and Removal Operations complained about dwindling noncriminal deportations and outlined to field offices a new policy that emphasized high enforcement quotas rather than focusing enforcement on serious criminals. The memo caused quite a stir and outraged many because it represented a major shift in the Administration’s central immigration policy of prioritizing enforcement on the most dangerous undocumented immigrants. ICE quickly moved to distance itself from the memo, reiterating its commitment to the removal of serious criminal offenders first and denying that it sets quotas. Nevertheless, immigration communities were not persuaded.
A week later, the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a damning assessment of ICE’s “287(g)” programs, named after a provision in the immigration laws that delegates ICE federal enforcement powers to local law enforcement authorities. The OIG found that 287(g) programs have not prioritized serious criminal immigrants and that performance standards by which local officers are evaluated focus on the number of immigrants encountered, not the seriousness of their crimes.