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Report: Immigration Enforcement Program Loses Track of Funds

Critics of the 287 (g) program, which deputizes local police for immigration enforcement in some areas, gained some ammunition Friday in the form of a report that federal immigration officials lost track of their spending on the program. The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, an internal watchdog for the department, said his office was unable to obtain enough documentation to determine whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement was properly spending the $11.1 million it was given by Congress to review the 287 (g) program.

Part of the problem, the inspector general suggests, is that the agency spent almost three times what it needed to on flights, hotels and per diems for federal officials to travel to 287 (g) cities for compliance reviews. ICE reported spending $6,329 per person for 72 people to travel for reviews, but the inspector general’s office found that even in the most expensive locations, costs should not have exceeded $2,300 per person.

ICE told The Washington Post that the issue was being resolved:

“We are reviewing the report’s findings and will respond when that review is complete,” said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Gillian Brigham. “That said, ICE has addressed the accounting issue identified in the report.”

The program was criticized in March 2009 by the Government Accountability Office, which issued a report that immigration officials had failed to establish “key internal controls” to ensure local enforcement was run properly. In April, the DHS inspector general criticized the management, organization, information-sharing, training and oversight of the 287 (g) program.

What’s so bad about 287 (g), according to critics and reports? For one thing, local law enforcement agencies in some areas claim the program eats up their resources and time by adding the responsibility of immigration enforcement. The Police Foundation, a nonpartisan research group, said in 2009 that “immigration enforcement by local police undermines their core public safety mission, diverts scarce resources, increases their exposure to liability and litigation, and exacerbates fear in communities already distrustful of police.”

Critics of 287 (g) also argue it nets too many non-criminal illegal immigrants — an argument that has also been leveled against the Secure Communities fingerprint-sharing program. “The OIG report is further evidence that the Administration has yet to distinguish between deporting large numbers of immigrants and making us safe,” Mary Giovagnoli, director of the Immigration Policy Center, said in April after the inspector general criticized the program for lacking focus on dangerous criminals.

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