The Criminal Alien Program (CAP) is a broad immigration-enforcement program that is responsible for initiating a large number of removal proceedings throughout the U.S. This program has been around for decades, but it is still largely not understood by many.
CAP is administered by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and it is currently active in state and federal prisons along with 300 local jails. CAP was first instituted as a response to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). This Act mandates the Attorney General, “in the case of an alien who is convicted of an offense which makes the alien subject to deportation . . . [to] begin any deportation proceeding as expeditiously as possible after the date of conviction.”
After subsequent programs were added in 1988 and 2006, ICE consolidated the projects into the current CAP. It is currently among 13 other federal and local law enforcement policies under the umbrella of ICE ACCESS (Agreements in Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security).
There are five commonly referenced subprograms within CAP:
- The Violent Criminal Alien Section (VCAS): This program enforces violations of criminal immigration law. It is estimated that VCAS has facilitated more than 36,000 arrests.
- The Law Enforcement Agency Response Unit (LEAR): This was established in Arizona to provide a 24-hour response to calls requesting assistance from state and local law enforcement agencies. LEAR is expected to conduct interviews to determine alienage and status, lodges detainers, executes arrests, and transports and processes aliens for removal.
- The Rapid Repatriation of Eligible Custodial Aliens Accepted for Transfer (Rapid REPAT): This program is a joint partnership made up of state correctional and parole agencies. It permits early release for nonviolent noncitizens who have been issued final orders of removal for immediate deportation.
- The Deportation Enforcement and Processing Offenders by Remote Technology (DEPORT) Center: The center was first created in 2006 and provided a centralized processing center for placing removable aliens who were detained by the Bureau of Prisons into proceedings.
- Joint Criminal Alien Removal Task Forces (JCART): This program will identify, investigate, and arrest aliens who have been convicted of drug trafficking offenses, violent crimes, and sex crimes. JCART also works to locate noncitizens who have been involved in human trafficking, smuggling, and transnational organized crime.
While CAP's focus seems to be undocumented immigrants, it will also seek out legal permanent residents and other lawfully present nonimmigrants if they have been convicted of certain crimes.
Understandably, there are concerns associated with CAP. It has been alleged that CAP distributes incentives to law enforcement officers for arresting individuals who “look like immigrants.” A recent study conducted in Irving, Texas, found that local police were regularly arresting Latinos in order to check their immigration status with CAP. There is also a concern that citizens will tend to distrust local law enforcement if it is believed that they are working too closely with CAP.
The area of immigration is made up of many programs, laws, and agencies. It's not surprising that many people are often confused by the different regulations involved with immigration matters. If you are seeking legal representation for immigration or criminal defense matters, contact my office today.