On June 26, 2010, President Obama named Harold Hurtt, former police chief of the sanctuary cities of Houston and Phoenix, to oversee the 287(g) Program. 287(g) is a program authorized by the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996 that allows U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to enter into agreements with local law enforcement agencies to “deputize” or cross-designate law enforcement officers to act as immigration agents within their jurisdictions. As police chief of Houston, not only did Hurtt actively support the city’s sanctuary policies, but he also was highly critical of the 287(g) program, the very program he was later asked to lead. In 2008, Hurtt said that local police “don’t want to be immigration officers.”
One local police officer, Joslyn Johnson, disagreed. In 2006, Johnson’s husband, Rodney Johnson, another Houston Police officer, was shot four times in the head and killed by a previously deported illegal alien during a routine traffic stop. The illegal alien, Juan Leonardo Quintero, was deported to Mexico in 1999 after being convicted of DWI, failure to stop, and child molestation. He had also been arrested at least three times in Houston since reentering the country but because of the city’s sanctuary policies was still at large in Houston. Joslyn Johnson was outraged by Hurtt’s appointment, believing that his policies put citizens and officers in danger in Houston and should not be extended throughout the country.
Congress also criticized Hurtt’s appointment. Representative Steve King (R-Iowa), said “I don’t know how [Obama] can do that given the record that [Hurtt] has. I think this is another piece in the puzzle to granting some type of de facto amnesty.” This concern proved prescient.
As one would expect from the President’s appointment of an avowed opponent of 287(g) to oversee it, the Administration spent the next several years undoing the program. In February of 2012, the Administration sought to cut $17 million in funding in its proposed budget, describing what was essentially a phase-out of the program. In July of 2012, the Obama Administration rescinded the 287(g) Task Force agreements in Arizona. In September of 2012, it rescinded the program in North Carolina. Finally, just before the holidays in December 2012, the Administration quietly announced in a press release that it would not be renewing any more task force model agreements, which would have allowed local law enforcement officers trained through the program to identify and remove illegal aliens anywhere in their jurisdiction. That announcement effectively dismantled the 287(g) program, despite the fact that it was duly enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1996.