Local Police & Immigration Enforcement

The Role of Local Police: Striking a Balance Between Immigration Enforcement & Civil Liberties

This 256-page report presents findings and recommendations from the Police Foundation’s year-long national effort that examined the implications of immigration enforcement at the local level. The project brought together law enforcement executives, policy makers, elected officials, scholars, and community representatives in a series of focus groups across the country and at a national conference in Washington. The report includes research on the rights of undocumented immigrants and the legal framework for enforcement of immigration laws, demographics, immigration and criminality, evaluation of federal efforts to collaborate with local police on immigration enforcement (287(g) program), a national survey of law enforcement executives on immigration issues and local policing, the experience of undocumented youth, and a survey of law enforcement executives attending the foundation conference about their views on local immigration enforcement issues.

An abstract, the executive summary, report narrative, full report with appendices, and individual appendices are available in Adobe PDF format as follows.*


A. Focus Group Summary

Anita Khashu

B. Legal Issues in Local Police Enforcement of Federal Immigration Law

Nancy Morawetz and Alina Das

ABSTRACT: As local police consider taking on enforcement of federal immigration law, they should carefully consider the legal complexity of their role and legal constraints on methods of enforcement in a legal and institutional system that operates quite differently from local criminal justice systems. Local police enforcement of federal immigration law must account for local, state, and federal laws that govern the rights of community residents and the obligations of localities. It must also account for the civil nature of most immigration violations. Most importantly, it must be conducted in a way that avoids several common misconceptions about the supposed targets of immigration law enforcement, including confusion over their rights, status, and place in the community. The risk of error is high, and already several localities have been subject to lawsuits over unlawful arrests and detentions, the use of racial profiling in enforcement, poor conditions of confinement, and other violations of law. This paper discusses the legal complexities of federal immigration law enforcement in the local setting and the changing demographics of communities. Risks of liability provide yet another factor for police departments to consider before making a decision about whether to tread into this new field of enforcement.

C. Making Civil Liberties Matter in Local Immigration Enforcement 

Raquel Aldana

ABSTRACT: The exponential rise in local law enforcement involvement in the enforcement of immigration laws raises significant questions regarding a state’s source of power to enforce a traditionally federal power. As well, this trend presents local police with new challenges on how to protect the civil liberties and retain the trust of immigrant communities. In this paper, the author explains the unresolved controversy of the source and scope of local powers to enforce federal immigration laws and details the civil liberties concerns that arise from local law enforcement’s involvement in immigration enforcement. The author then offers recommendations for ensuring greater civil rights compliance by local law enforcement agencies that still choose to enforce immigration laws, as well as explains immigrant’s rights during these police encounters.

D. Undocumented Immigration and Rates of Crime and Imprisonment: Popular Myths and Empirical Realities

Rubén G. Rumbaut

ABSTRACT: The perception that the foreign-born, especially “illegal aliens,” are responsible for higher crime rates is deeply rooted in American public opinion and is sustained by media anecdote and popular myth. In the absence of rigorous empirical research, stereotypes about immigrants and crime often provide the underpinnings for public policies and practices, and shape public opinion and political behavior. These perceptions, however, are not supported empirically; in fact, they are refuted by the preponderance of scientific evidence. In addition to reviewing previous literature on immigrant criminality, Rumbaut looks at national violent and property crime rates since the early 1990s, during the period of highest immigration. He then analyzes incarceration rates of young men eighteen to thirty-nine, comparing differences between the foreign-born and the U.S.-born by national origin and by education, and, among the foreign-born, by length of residence in the U.S. Rumbaut also examines findings from two major surveys (IIMMLA and CILS) in Southern California, the region of greatest immigrant concentration in the United States, and focuses comparative attention on those nationalities representing distinct modes of incorporation.

E. Why Integration Matters: The Case of Undocumented Immigrant Youth and Moving Beyond Enforcement

Roberto G. Gonzales

ABSTRACT: Today’s immigration debates have brought to the fore conflicting visions within the United States over how to address a population of eleven to twelve million undocumented immigrants. However, contemporary debates have yet to catch up to current realities and complexities of undocumented families and thus do not account, for the most part, for a growing population of undocumented children educated in the United States. Drawing upon three and a half years of fieldwork and over one hundred life histories with adult children of undocumented immigrants in Southern California, this paper seeks to address the complicated realities of contemporary immigration by examining the experiences of undocumented youth in the larger community context. It argues that while enforcement efforts are counterproductive, police and other community officials have an important role to play in the integration process of undocumented youth.

F. Local Enforcement of Immigration Laws: Evolution of the 287(g) Program and Its Potential Impacts on Local Communities

Randolph Capps

ABSTRACT: By August 2008, sixty-two state and local agencies had entered into 287(g) agreements with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), although most were signed since 2005. Most of the jurisdictions adopting agreements are in southeastern and southwestern states, in conservative political areas, and in locations where recent growth in unauthorized immigration has been rapid. This paper begins with a brief timeline and overview of the 287(g) program and discusses some of the broad outlines of how it has been implemented to date. Then, for further background, population and political trends that underlie the adoption of 287(g) programs across the country are discussed. The third section of the paper relates preliminary findings about the implementation of 287(g) in Arkansas, based on a site visit there in June 2008. The site visit to the adjacent communities of Rogers and Springdale, Arkansas, confirmed that 287(g) officers there were checking immigration status in a variety of operations, including: routine traffic stops, worksite investigations, drug raids, and at the county jails in both communities. Several hundred immigrants had been arrested, detained, and sent into the custody of ICE for deportation over the course of the first six months. Latino community leaders who had originally supported the program in Springdale had withdrawn their support due to the wide net that the 287(g) officers had cast, and the program’s broad impacts on local residents, including schoolchildren. The paper ends with policy recommendations and general observations about potential impacts of 287(g) operations on cites, immigrant communities, and children.

G. Immigration and Local Policing: Results from a National Survey of Law Enforcement Executives

Scott H. Decker, Paul G. Lewis, Doris Marie Provine, and Monica W. Varsanyi

ABSTRACT: One of the most important challenges for law enforcement agencies in many communities is how to respond to immigration and the presence of undocumented residents. Departments often face conflicting pressures from local politicians, federal authorities, community groups, and the private sector. Yet they have little available information to help them make sound policy decisions. This paper reports on the results of a recent nationwide survey of police executives on several issues, including differences between departments and communities and their attitudes about immigration and local law enforcement; relationships with federal immigration and customs enforcement authorities; and the range of policies on immigration policing being developed by cities and departments. The survey also explores levels of commitment to community policing practices and the potential for conflict with enforcement of immigration laws by local police.

H. Law Enforcement Executive Views: Results from the Conference Survey

Karen L. Amendola, Kristin N. Williams, Edwin E. Hamilton, and Veronica Puryear

ABSTRACT: The Police Foundation conducted a survey of law enforcement executives who attended the August 2008 national conference, The Role of Local Police: Striking a Balance Between Immigration Enforcement and Civil Liberties. Only those who were the top executive or his/her designee were asked to complete the survey. This report shows the findings for the surveys returned at the conclusion of the conference.

I. Unauthorized Immigrants: Trends, Characteristics, and Surprises

Jeffrey S. Passel

ABSTRACT: Dr. Passel, Senior Demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, examines patterns and trends associated with unauthorized immigration in the U.S.

J. Conference Keynote Address

Phil Gordon

K. Collier County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Alien Task Force An Overview of the 287(g) Program: Strategy, Outcomes, and Benefits of the Partnership

Don Hunter

L. Fear, Crime, and Community Trust: Community Perspectives on Immigration Enforcement by Local Police

Kareem Shora

M. Remarks

Julie Erfle

N. Conference Agenda and Presenters’ Bios

O. Sample Police Department Policies on Immigration Enforcement

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Jim Bueermann Discusses Immigration Policy & Reform at National League of Cities Congressional Cities Conference

On March 12, 2013, Police Foundation President Jim Bueermann was a speaker on a National League of Cities panel that discussed US immigration policy and the need and prospects for comprehensive immigration reform.

Press Conference

On May 20, 2009, the Police Foundation presented the report to Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, Chairman, Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law, Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives.