SF Gate.com

A federal program that deputized dozens of state and local police agencies to enforce immigration law is coming under new scrutiny in Washington, where government investigators say the Department of Homeland Security has failed to properly supervise its local partners or make clear that they are to go after serious criminals, not people stopped for speeding or public urination.

The House Homeland Security Committee has scheduled a hearing on the program for Wednesday afternoon. Last summer, the committee requested a Government Accountability Office investigation of the program, known as 287(g), and now it’s expecting to hear about those findings.

Committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said he was concerned about accusations that the policing program has led to racial profiling, the Associated Press reported.

The GAO report found that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials had not clearly explained to their local partners that the program was supposed to target smugglers and other serious offenders. Instead, state and local law enforcement agencies have been stopping people for minor infractions and turning them over to ICE, according to the AP, which obtained an advance copy of the report.

The 287(g) arrangement gained particular notoriety from Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has paraded alleged illegal immigrants in chains and striped suits through downtown Phoenix. His actions recently led four members of Congress to call for an investigation.

Last week, Justice Strategies, a research and advocacy group, released its own scathing analysis, saying the immigration partnership takes local police away from their crime fighting mission. That assessment was echoed by the liberalImmigration Policy Center. The restrictionist Center for Immigration Studies, by contrast, has celebrated the program as a way to crack down on immigrant gangs.

Meanwhile Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has called for her agency to review 287(g) among other ICE programs. The debate is sure to heat up as the findings unfold.

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