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  • Juan M. Pedroza

Where immigration enforcement stalled

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

If you've followed immigration enforcement news and research, you're likely familiar with the so-called 287(g) program – named after a 1996 change in federal law. The program trains state and local law enforcement to enforce immigration laws alongside federal officials.

I first learned about the program in 2007 as a researcher at the Urban Institute when conducting research on the effects of restrictive state laws as well as raids and deportations on immigrant communities. As part of these studies, I traveled to Tulsa, OK and Northwest Arkansas to learn about the impacts of 287(g) programs, worksite raids, and related deportation activities. At the time, our team did not know that other nearby cities (Oklahoma City, OK and Fort Smith, AR) had also expressed interest in the 287(g) program.

At its height in the Obama years, the program reached over 70 counties. Less known, however, are all of the local law enforcement agencies that expressed interest in the program but never implemented a 287(g) agreement. In fact, nearly twice as many places tried to enact the program as those that actually did so.

If you want to know where these places are located, then check out a data resource now available via SocArXiv:

This document includes a list of local law enforcement agencies (LEAs) that submitted applications and inquiries to the federal government regarding the 287(g) immigration enforcement program. The information described in this document was originally obtained and shared via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) – first by Justin Cox and later by William Rosales. In preparing the document, I have reviewed and requested copies of the documents from DHS and have compared information obtained in documents obtained by Cox and Rosales. Corrections to the information below will be included in updated versions of the above document.


What do we know about where 287(g) immigration enforcement agreements stalled?

Researchers have studied 287(g) applications and inquiries by state and local law enforcement.

Early studies examined the rise of immigration policymaking by focusing on policy enacted and proposed at the local level – including (but not limited to) as 287(g) applications that were eventually denied, withdrawn, or otherwise not implemented. These studies thus afford insights into central determinants of restrictive immigration policymaking at the local level:

  • O’Neil, Kevin S. 2011. “Challenging Change: Local Policies and the New Geography of American Immigration.” Ph.D. Dissertation. Princeton University. Retrieved from

  • Steil, Justin Peter and Ion Bogdan Vasi. 2014. “The New Immigration Contestation: Social Movements and Local Immigration Policy Making in the United States, 2000–2011.” American Journal of Sociology 119(4):1104–55.

  • Wong, Tom K. 2012. “287(g) and the Politics of Interior Immigration Control in the United States: Explaining Local Cooperation with Federal Immigration Authorities.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 38(5):737–56.

Recent studies have leveraged variation in food insecurity, foreclosures, and Hispanic student enrollment in local places that enacted 287(g) programs compared to locations that expressed interest in the program but did not enact such a program. These studies employ difference-in-difference techniques to estimate the consequences of 287(g) program adoption:

  • Dee, Thomas, and Mark Murphy. Vanished Classmates: The Effects of Local Immigration Enforcement on Student Enrollment. No. w25080. National Bureau of Economic Research, 2018.

  • Potochnick, Stephanie R., Jen Hao Chen, and Krista M. Perreira. 2017. “Local-Level Immigration Enforcement and Food Insecurity Risk among Hispanic Immigrant Families with Children: National-Level Evidence.” Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health 19(5):1042–49.

  • Rugh, Jacob S. and Matthew Hall. 2016. “Deporting the American Dream: Immigration Enforcement and Latino Foreclosures.” Sociological Science 3:1077–1102.

To learn more about the 287(g) program, I have included these and other academic and policy research in the SocArXiv document cited above. For example, pioneering work on how local officials implemented the program is available as an open access book by Amada Armenta: Protect, Serve, and Deport The Rise of Policing as Immigration Enforcement (UC Press 2017). The following dissertation research also details the scope and ramifications program:

  • Arriaga, Felicia (2018). The Browning of Threat: The “Unintended” Aftermath of Immigration Enforcement in a New Destination Community. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from

  • Stageman, Daniel (2017). Local Immigration Enforcement Entrepreneurship in the Punishment Marketplace. Dissertation, The City University of New York. Retrieved from

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