Today, a group of immigration reform advocates called for an end to the controversial 287(g) program, labeling it a “failed experiment.” Speakers from labor organizations and immigration advocacy groups said the expansion and continued failure of this enforcement program is a “worrying signal on the President’s commitment” to reforming our immigration system. They went as far as to say that “the only thing that has changed since George Bush left the White House is that now President Obama is sanctioning Sheriff Joe (the controversial Arizona Sheriff) to terrorize Latinos.”

The 287(g) program—an immigration enforcement program which gives state and local law enforcement authority to enforce immigration laws—has been controversial since its inception. Criticisms of the program have come a wide range of sources, including Congressional hearings, the ACLU, Justice Strategies, the Government Accountability Office and the conservative Goldwater Institute. Yet, upon her confirmation, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano not only revamped the program but expanded it rather than ending it as some had hoped. This latest dust up on the problematic 287(g) program comes on the heels of a blistering report issued by the Department of Homeland Security’s own Inspector General which portrays the program as poorly managed and seriously lacking in accountability.

Crystal Williams of AILA said that “it’s time to retire 287g for the failed program it is” while Eliseo Medina of SEIU said he had expected DHS under Obama to build an enforcement program that would go after bad employers. Instead, he said “reports show an agency out of control.”

What does it take to end a bad program? Shouldn’t high cost, mismanagement, and abuse of power be enough to sink a long-troubled initiative? Not a single report has come forward highlighting the benefits of 287(g) to communities, to safety, or to deterring illegal immigration.   Enforcement without serious reform will never work as it never has. The bottom line is that without reform we are hopelessly stuck in an enforcement-only cycle. So what can be done to end wasteful and abusive programs like 287(g) that are making us less safe and doing nothing to deter illegal immigration and what will it take to do so?

Photo by thepismire.