The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, also known as ICE, has brought immigration enforcement to U.S. counties for the past 20 years through their 287(g) program. They did so by promoting local police officers to double as federal agents to perform federal immigration checks. In practice, this has meant the infringement of rights, criminalization of minorities, and more under the premise that a person may appear to be illegally in the United States. Scholars have researched the intricacies of the consequences of this program. Legal coalitions and pro-immigrant think tanks have helped sue and force restructures of the program that continues to allow sheriff offices to collaborate with ICE.
Sheriffs in U.S. counties are publicly elected officials. This means that locals get to decide who they will support, and this person has the ability to choose whether their county, through their sheriff’s office, will sign onto ICE’s 287(g) program. A myriad of social forces shapes a county’s population and their attitudes towards immigrants such as changing demographics of the Latino population, changes in economic opportunity or political movements. Nevertheless, there has been significant variation in when counties have adopted this program.
During the Obama administration barely 30 counties (through their sheriff offices) signed onto the 287(g) program to collaborate with ICE who look to identify and remove deportable aliens (ice.gov). Within the first four months of the Trump administration this number doubled to 60, peaking in 2020 with 135 counties; a 350% increase since the previous administration. As of January of 2021, county agreements have not decreased under the newly-elected Democrat, President Biden.