Local Government Cooperation with Federal Immigration Enforcement Efforts


November 26, 2016

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The responsibility of governments to their citizens includes the administration of justice — both to prevent crime and to punish lawbreakers. Americans are facing a new threat to their physical safety from international terrorism. Al Qaeda, which was responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,000 residents on September 11, 2001, remains avowedly committed to carrying out further crimes against Americans at home and abroad. And then there exists the new threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Although the federal government has the responsibility for combating this threat, its capability to do so depends on the cooperation of law enforcement agencies at all levels. Similarly, the capability of federal immigration authorities to stem immigration law violations and to apprehend and remove lawbreakers requires the cooperation of state and local law enforcement agencies.

Failure to cooperate with federal immigration authorities undermines national security efforts and enables terrorists and individuals of national security concern to go unnoticed and carry out their activities unimpeded by immigration law. Reportedly, over half of the 48 individuals convicted or tied to recent terrorist plots in the United States either were themselves illegal aliens or relied upon illegal aliens to get fake identification. Immigration violators participated in the first attack on the World Trade Center, the Los Angeles Millennium bombing plot, the New York subway bombing conspiracy, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has just 20,000 employees, only half of which are dedicated to the apprehension and removal of illegal aliens. The cooperation of state and local police forces, which number about 800,000 strong, is vital to ferreting out those among us who wish to cause us harm. At least five of the 9/11 hijackers were illegal aliens, of which four — ringleader and pilot Mohammed Atta, pilot Hani Hanjour, pilot Ziad Jarrah, and muscle Nawaf al-hazmi — came into contact with state and local law enforcement several times before the attacks for various reasons. If those state and local law enforcement agencies had been working with federal immigration officials, the 9/11 terrorist plot might have been thwarted.

Furthermore, local communities that cooperate with and assist the federal government in its immigration enforcement efforts see a dramatic decrease in illegal immigration and crime. For example, after Arizona got tough on illegal immigration and instituted policies of cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the State experienced a significant decrease in violent crime. Likewise, Prince William County, Virginia experienced a reduction in violent crime (and hit-and-run accidents) after instituting a policy of cooperation with DHS.

Congress has enacted multiple statutory provisions designed to maximize cooperation between federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in enforcing immigration laws. For example, 8 U.S.C. § 1357(g) (otherwise known as Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)) authorizes the Secretary of DHS to enter into written agreements with state or local law enforcement agencies whereby state and local law enforcement officers are trained by the federal government in immigration law enforcement and then are deputized to act as immigration agents. Importantly, 8 U.S.C. § 1357(g) also contains a provision that states that a formal agreement with the federal government is not necessary for “any officer or employee” of a state or local agency “to communicate with the [Secretary of DHS] regarding the immigration status of any individual, including reporting knowledge that a particular alien is not lawfully present in the United States,” or “to cooperate with the [Secretary of DHS] in the identification, apprehension, detention, or removal of aliens not lawfully present in the United States.”

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