ICE to release nationwide standard for illegal immigrant risk assessment

Tools

Law enforcement officials will soon have a nationwide standard that classifies illegal immigrants according to risk, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton told a March 8 congressional panel.

"It's going to be a major reform, because it is going to bring great uniformity to the question of whether or not somebody gets detained," Morton told the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security. Morton in 2011 instituted a policy of prosecutorial discretion requiring personnel take into account factors such as educational attainment, criminal history, age and circumstances of arrival in the United States when enforcing immigration law.

An agency review of about half of the 300,000 extant illegal immigrations cases has so far resulted in the administrative closure of about 1,500 of them, Morton said. The vast majority of closed cases concern people who are very long-term residents or who have a American citizen spouse or child, he added.

The ICE director criticized Cook County for a policy (County Ordinance 46 §37) it implemented in September under which it no longer honors ICE requests to detain illegal immigrants after they've posted bail. Officials from Cook County, which includes the city of Chicago and many of its suburbs, have said ICE detention costs $43,000 per day. In addition, county board President Toni Preckwinkle has also said post-bail detention constitutes illegal search and seizure without probable cause, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Morton told the subcommittee his agency has committed to detaining illegal immigrants on "on the moment of their [county] release" and will reimburse the county for costs should it not. However, Cook County officials have also said ICE detentions could violate a 2007 ordinance (07-R-240 [.pdf]) preventing county workers from asking about an individual's immigration status.

Federal law, Morton said, prohibits the type of sanctuary law the county board approved, but the ability of the federal government to enforce the prohibition "is not entirely clear." So far the federal government has never had the Justice Department enjoin a local jurisdiction from enforcing a sanctuary statue, he added. "Cook County is the first jurisdiction that has actually refused to cooperate across all classes of offenders," he said, adding ICE is prepared to involve Justice.

Proposed cuts to the 287(g) program in the coming fiscal year will not affect delegations of immigration law enforcement to state and local prison and jail officials, Morton also said. The fiscal 2013 ICE budget proposal would reduce 287(g) program funding to $51.32 million, a real reduction of 26.32 percent from current year levels when taking into account Office of Management and Budget-projected inflation. 

Rather, the reduction would affect task force delegations, which have proven "to be not particularly productive," Morton said. Among the reasons why is that local jurisdictions have local law enforcement agencies undergoing budget cuts have reassigned personnel away from 287(g) task forces, meaning that a number of task forces have caused no deportations and other have caused just a handful.

For more:
- go to  the hearing webpage (prepared testimony and webcast available)

Related Articles:
DHS halts Secure Communities expansion in Alabama
Fiscal 2013: Immigration and Customs Enforcement
ICE appoints first public advocate