End the 287(g) Programs

By Michelle Manivel

What are 287(g) programs?

287(g) programs have a binding contract between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities to work together to detain migrants for potential deportation. Under these agreements, local law enforcement officials are given the power to check immigration status and detain individuals on behalf of ICE officials. Frequently, these programs involve training and offer limited financial benefits to the local department involved.


In a larger context, 287(g) is a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).  The INA as a whole organizes laws and statues about immigration, and section 287(g) allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enter agreements with local police departments, and delegate selected enforcement officers to perform the functions of federal agents.  

Consequences of local police enforcing federal immigration laws

There are many consequences for local police doing federal agent tasks.  First, it is very costly to enforce these laws and provide training to law enforcement. In 2016, $24 million federal dollars were spent on the program, compared to $5 million in 2006.  Not only is federal money going to the program, but so is local funding.  


It also negatively impacts the relationship that community members have with local law enforcement and creates a greater sense of distrust. Not only do these programs place undocumented community members of a neighborhood at a higher risk, but the neighborhood experiences increased risk as a whole when some members of the community fear consequences of interacting with the police. People who are undocumented are often times afraid to report crimes as a witness or victim, which explains the data from communities with 287(g) agreements where fewer reports of sexual and domestic assault exist. Similarly, in these communities, people frequently are less likely to seek needed healthcare due to fear of retribution for interacting with government authorities, which has led to increased rates of terminal illnesses.  In one case, a Florida man who was hit by a car was denied medical aid until police obtained his immigration status; he was later deported.


This program is designed to target serious criminal offenders, but there have been numerous reports that more than half of the people taken into custody under the guise of 287(g) have minor offenses on their record, such as a traffic violation. The consequences of criminal and civil matters should remain separate, as American law was designed, and not intertwine with each other.  For example:

  • Criminal offense- Offense against state or federal government

    • Homicide, assault, conspiracy, obstruction of justice

  • Civil offense- Disputes between entities or individuals

    • Custody, bankruptcy, breach of contract


Lastly, the presence of 287(g) agreements in our communities is a violation of the Fourth and Tenth Amendments:

  • Fourth- Protects against unreasonable search and seizure

    • Cannot hold people in criminal custody for civil violation

  • Tenth- Defines the relationship between state and federal government

    • Cannot hold people past release date

Where are 287(g) programs already implemented?

Around the country, 287(g) agreements are active in over 20 states that have a total of 78 law enforcement agencies involved in this program; 18 of these 78 counties are in Texas.

  • Red: the agreement was signed in during the Trump administration

  • Yellow: the agreement was signed before the Trump administration

  • Green: the cities that have terminated the agreements

In the past, several officers with the Missouri State Highway Patrol were deputized under a 287(g) agreement. To see a copy of what these agreements really look like, click here or here. Records indicate that this agreement was not renewed when it formally expired in 2010. But in many cases, officers continue to behave as though these powers remain regardless if the contractual agreement has ended, posing an even greater threat to our communities. Plus, other agencies and entities have taken it upon themselves to further the reach of 287(g) programs, and even in Missouri, a supporting “resolution” was passed by the state legislature to demonstrate support of the damaging principles behind 287(g).


How does this align with IFCLA?

Many times, police officers have incredible power over a community, and many communities believe that police departments should be a safe space to support individuals in need, that officers should been known as people safe to confide in and feel safe around, regardless of and individual’s gender, sexual orientation, religion, spoken languages, citizenship status, criminal history, or any other facets of human existence. With the aggressive policing that has been happening at the border and in many Latin American countries, physical and mental health has deteriorated in the populations that are systemically targets of this aggression: communities of color, poor and under-educated communities, immigrants, queer and trans people, and other marginalized populations.  With a criminal justice system and prison-industrial complex that profits and benefits from targeting these communities, we have lost sight of the meaning of justice. We must work together to ensure that our governments do not oppress those who look to our country for hope, freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  

What can I do in my community?

  • Find out your community’s history with 287(g) agreements and similar entanglement of local law enforcement with federal policing. Educate yourself and your community by spreading awareness of issues upon implementation. Read more in-depth about the program here.

  • Call your state representatives and sheriff offices and demand that they not renew the program when it expires. Similarly, encourage your local sheriff’s office or representatives to terminate active agreements immediately, as they can be terminated at any time.

  • Tell your federal electeds what you would rather see the your tax dollars going to support instead of increased policing and enforcement. Urge them to reduce funding for DHS, ICE and CBP, and allocate these funds to address other community needs. Follow and participate in nationwide #DefundHate campaigns to build awareness of the harmful local consequences for funding these agencies.

  • Stay tuned to IFCLA’s upcoming events page for additional opportunities for involvement, education and action.