To build his deportation force, President Trump is reviving a program that deputizes local officers to enforce federal immigration law, the Associated Press reports. The program got scant attention as Trump announced on the same day his plans to build a border wall and hire thousands more federal agents as he looks to fulfill promises from his campaign. The program has fallen out of favor amid complaints that it promotes racial profiling. More than 60 police and sheriff’s agencies had the special authority in 2009. Since then, the number has been halved and the effort scaled back as critics said officers weren’t focusing on catching violent offenders and instead arrested immigrants for minor violations.
Traditionally, police stayed out of immigration enforcement and left those duties to federal authorities. A 1996 federal law opened up the possibility for local agencies to participate in immigration enforcement on the streets and do citizenship checks of people in local jails. Immigration and Customs Enforcement trained and certified 1,600 officers to carry out these checks from 2006 to 2015. The Obama administration phased out all the arrest power agreements in 2013, but still let agencies check whether people jailed in their jurisdiction were citizens. If they find that an inmate is in the U.S. illegally, they typically notify federal authorities or hand them over to immigration officers. Today, more than 30 local agencies participate in the jail program.