The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton in 1996. Its section 287, subsection (g) effectively deputizes local employees, typically law enforcement personnel, to “perform a function of an immigration officer in relation to the investigation, apprehension, or detention of aliens in the United States.” The program allows designated state employees to act as federal authorities for the purposes of determining their liability and immunity from a civil action suit brought under federal or state law.
For participating local law enforcement agencies, the scope and specifics of the program are codified through signing a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). As of June 2020, 75 law enforcement agencies in 21 states participate in the 287(g) program with ICE through a “Jail Enforcement Model,” which allows local officials to screen inmates of local jails or prisons for immigration violations, alert ICE and turn inmates over to the federal agency. A report by the Migration Policy Institute found that the 287(g) program is “not targeted primarily at serious offenders, despite statements by administration officials” and that nearly half of the program activity involves noncitizens arrested for misdemeanors and traffic offenses.