Through the 287(g) program, ICE delegates enforcement powers to state and local agencies who serve as force multipliers in their communities. As of March 20, 2008, ICE has signed 47 memoranda of agreement (MOAs) with state and local law enforcement agencies to participate in the program. Last year, ICE trained 422 state and local officers. In the program's last two years, it has identified more than 28,000 illegal aliens for potential deportation.
ICE also has continued to expand its BEST teams to work cooperatively with domestic and foreign law enforcement counterparts to dismantle criminal organizations operating near the border. In Fiscal Year 2007, ICE launched new BEST teams in El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley, and in San Diego, bringing the total number of teams to five. These task forces have been responsible for 519 criminal arrests and 1,145 administrative arrests of illegal aliens, the seizure of 52,518 pounds of marijuana and 2,066 pounds of cocaine, 178 vehicles, 12 improvised explosive devices, and more than $2.9 million in U.S. currency.
ICE DBFTFs are a strong law enforcement presence that combats fraud utilizing existing manpower and authorities. Through comprehensive criminal investigations, successful prosecutions, aggressive asset forfeiture and positive media, the DBFTFs detect, deter and dismantle organizations that facilitate fraud. The task forces promote the sharing of information, ensure the integrity of our laws, and uphold public safety. In April 2007, ICE formed six new task forces, bringing the total number of DBFTFs to 17. These task forces have been responsible for 954 criminal arrests and 635 criminal convictions.
Targeting Fugitives, Criminals, and Gang Members
Finally, our interior enforcement efforts have focused on identifying, arresting, and removing fugitives, criminals, and illegal alien gang members in our country.
In Fiscal Year 2007, ICE Fugitive Operations Teams arrested 30,407 individuals, nearly double the number of arrests in Fiscal Year 2006. The teams, which quintupled in number from 15 to 75 between 2005 and 2007, identify, locate, arrest and remove aliens who have failed to depart the United States pursuant to a final order of removal, deportation, or exclusion; or who have failed to report to a Detention and Removal Officer after receiving notice to do so. In Fiscal Year 2008, Congress authorized an additional 29 teams. Fugitive Operations Teams have arrested 14,047 individuals this year.
ICE also expanded its Criminal Alien Program (CAP) in Fiscal Year 2007, initiating formal removal proceedings on 164,000 illegal aliens serving prison terms for crimes they committed in the United States. ICE has already initiated 91,066 formal removal proceedings against additional criminal aliens in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2008. ICE is developing a comprehensive strategic plan to better address CAP.
In addition, in Fiscal Year 2007 ICE arrested 3,302 gang members and their associates as part of Operation Community Shield. This total includes 1,442 criminal arrests. For Fiscal Year 2008 (through March 20, 2008), ICE has arrested 1098 gang members and their associates.
As an added layer of protection against the entry of known gang members, we have worked with the Department of State to expand the list of known organized street gangs whose members are barred from entry into the United States. This action will ensure that any active member of a known street gang from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, or Mexico will be denied a visa.
In all of these enforcement operations, we work cooperatively with state and local law enforcement to make sure we achieve our purpose with minimal disruption to surrounding communities. We also work with community organizations to ensure that children of illegal immigrants directly impacted by these operations are treated humanely and given appropriate care according to established protocols.
III. MAKING TEMPORARY WORKER PROGRAMS MORE EFFECTIVE
When Secretary Gutierrez and I announced the 26 reforms to strengthen border security and immigration last August, we noted the importance of improving the effectiveness of existing temporary worker programs to ensure the needs of our country's labor force continue to be met.
One of the consequences of our stepped-up enforcement has been that some economic sectors in our country have experienced labor shortages, most notably the agricultural sector. Of the 1.2 million agricultural workers in the United States, an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 are here illegally. This is not an argument for lax enforcement. Rather, we need to make sure our temporary worker programs are effective. To this end, we have joined the Department of Labor in proposing changes to modernize the H-2A seasonal agricultural worker program to remove unnecessarily burdensome restrictions on participation by employers and foreigners, while protecting the rights of laborers.
Under our proposed rule, which we announced in February, an employer will only need to identify an H-2A worker by name in its petition if the worker is already in the United States, even if there is only one worker. It is unreasonable to expect - given the realities of labor recruitment in the agricultural industry - that an agricultural employer in the U.S. would know the names of all the workers it hires from abroad. We have proposed to extend the amount of time a worker can remain in the United States after the end of his or her employment from 10 days to 30 days. This will make it easier for H-2A workers to extend their stay through a job with a new agricultural employer.
In addition, we have proposed to shorten the time period that a worker must wait outside our country before U.S. agricultural employers may petition again for that worker. Currently, workers must wait six months after their H-2A status expires before they can return. We want to cut that time in half to three months.
Of course, while it is important to make the H-2A process as flexible as possible for U.S. agricultural employers, we also want to protect workers. Our proposal requires an employer to attest, under penalty of perjury, that it will not materially change the scope of the foreign worker's duties and place of employment. This will help prevent the employment of H-2A workers in a manner different from what the employer stated on the petition. Employers will also be required to identify any labor recruiter they used to locate foreign workers to fill the H-2A positions. And employers and labor recruiters will be prohibited from imposing fees on foreign workers as a condition for H-2A sponsorship.
To ensure that we have appropriate law enforcement and security measures in place, we are also seeking to prohibit the approval of H-2A petitions for nationals of countries that consistently refuse or unreasonably delay repatriation of their citizens that we are trying to remove from the United States. We are requiring employers to notify us within 48 hours if an H-2A employee is fired or absconds from a worksite.
Finally, we are seeking to implement a land border exit pilot program for certain H-2A guest workers, requiring the temporary workers to register their departure through designated ports of departure before exiting the country. The objective is to ensure that temporary workers in the United States comply with the requirement to leave the country when their work authorization expires.
In addition to these proposed modifications to the H-2A program, we continue to work with federal partners on a number of other reforms announced last August to improve our temporary worker programs. These include reforms of the H-2B program for temporary or seasonal non-agricultural workers; an extension from 1 year to 3 years of the period that professional workers from Canada and Mexico may stay in the U.S. under the TN visa program; and potential improvements to visa programs for high-skilled workers. We will continue to keep the Committee apprised as these efforts proceed...