On Aug. 5, the county executive and the County Council announced a proposed audit of the sheriff’s office’s 287(g) agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agreement in which specially trained correctional officers screen those coming into the custody of the jail to determine their immigration status. It has unleashed a firestorm of misinformation about the audit and the controversial 287(g) agreement from both those in support of the agreement and those opposed to it.
As I understand it, what it is, is a narrow financial audit, an effort to determine the amount of local taxpayer dollars being spent on the 287(g) agreement. Nothing more. It is an attempt to uncover costs that have been hidden in the sheriff’s budget, hidden from view of those approving the budget and those providing the funds to pay for it. This audit will give the county executive and council a better understanding of what they have approved in the budget process and how much of the taxpayers’ dollars they have devoted to this agreement.
It is not an audit that will be evaluating the efficacy of the 287(g) agreement. There is not going to be a cost-benefit analysis. It is not an attempt to uncover wrongdoing by the sheriff, as no wrongdoing is suspected.
Recently Daniel Berti, a staff writer for the Prince William Times in Prince William County, Virginia, conducted an analysis of ICE agreements in that county, uncovering the cost to the taxpayer for the Prince William County sheriff’s participation in the 287(g) program. The price tag for the 287(g) agreement there had also been hidden from public view. Mr. Berti found that the costs to the local taxpayer were considerable.
Transparency, particularly when it comes to the use of taxpayer dollars, is critical to securing and maintaining the trust of the governed, trust that is necessary for effective leadership.
Karl Bickel was the 2018 Democratic candidate for sheriff. He can be reached at KarlBickel@comcast.net.