Last updated on: 3/13/2018 | Author:

Should State or Local Governments Help Enforce Federal Immigration Laws?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), in a Mar. 11, 2004 report entitled “Enforcing Immigration Law: The Role of State and Local Law Enforcement,” offered the following:

“States and localities bear the primary responsibility for defining and prosecuting crimes. But beyond enforcing the laws or ordinances of their state or locality, state and local officials may also have the authority to enforce some federal laws, especially criminal laws. Immigration law provides for both criminal punishments (e.g., alien smuggling, which is prosecuted in the courts) and civil violations (e.g., lack of legal status, which may lead to removal through a separate administrative system). The states and localities have traditionally only been permitted to directly enforce the criminal provisions, whereas the enforcement of the civil provisions has been viewed as a federal responsibility with states playing an incidental supporting role.”

Mar. 11, 2004

PRO (yes)


The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), in a Jan. 2016 report, “The Role of State & Local Law Enforcement in Immigration Matters and Reasons to Resist Sanctuary Policies,” available at, stated:

“Why should state and local governments cooperate with federal immigration officials?

Cooperation with federal immigration officials promotes public safety. State and local law enforcement are often on the front lines in dealing with crime involving transnational gang activity, human trafficking, smuggling, drug related offenses, and other serious crimes often tied to illegal immigration. When state and local law enforcement fail to contact federal immigration officials, criminal aliens are able to reenter communities and engage in further criminal activity at the expense and safety of citizens and lawful aliens…

ICE has roughly 20,000 officials and only 6,000 of these officials are active in enforcing immigration law in the interior of the country. That means, given current estimates, illegal aliens outnumber ICE agents by 2,000 to 1. Thus, the cooperation and assistance of over 900,000 state and local law enforcement agents currently working in our country allows immigration enforcement to operate much more efficiently and as intended by Congress. Without such cooperation, ICE officials alone can only hope to make small dents in the country’s vast illegal alien population.”

Jan. 2016


Jeff Sessions, JD, US Attorney General, in a Mar. 27, 2017 article, “Attorney General Jeff Sessions Delivers Remarks on Sanctuary Jurisdictions,” available at, stated:

“The American people are justifiably angry. They know that when cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe. Failure to deport aliens who are convicted for criminal offenses puts whole communities at risk – especially immigrant communities in the very sanctuary jurisdictions that seek to protect the perpetrators.”

Mar. 27, 2017


Mike Borkovich, Leelanau County (Michigan) Sheriff, in a Aug. 14, 2017 article, “Sherriff Borkovich Speaks on Immigration Enforcements, Cooperation with Feds,” available at, stated:

“We will help all law enforcement agencies, federal, state, local or tribal, we will help them do their job. It’s called mutual aid or other agency assistance. For instance, when we had an individual building nerve gas [incident] in Suttons Bay and also building bombs, the FBI came to us, we would not have even known about it if it were not for the cooperation between the agencies. That saved major lives. That was a very, very serious incident and we cooperate back and forth. …

ICE is Immigration Customs Enforcement. They are sanctioned… [W]e assist FBI, ICE, we assist Canadian Royal Mounted Police.”

Aug. 14, 2017


Marc R. Rosenblum, PhD, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Office of Immigration Statistics in the US Department of Homeland Security, in a July 2015 Migration Policy Institute report, “Federal-Local Cooperation on Immigration Enforcement Frayed; Chance for Improvement Exists,” available at, stated:

“The arguments in favor of local-state-federal cooperation on immigration enforcement are straightforward, particularly after the shooting death of Kate Steinle. Cooperation with local police is a significant force-multiplier for DHS because there are 750,000 police officers in the United States, compared to about 5,000 DHS enforcement and removal officers (excluding border personnel). And cooperation is the surest way to ensure the deportation of serious criminals like Lopez-Sanchez, who typically come into the immigration system through an encounter with the police (though in this particular case San Francisco had custody following a transfer from ICE after Lopez-Sanchez had completed a federal prison sentence for illegal re-entry). “

July 2015


Charlie Norwood, DDS, U.S. Representative (R-GA), in a July 9, 2003 House of Representatives statement, introduced the Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal Act of 2003 (H.R. 2671), as follows:

“There are upwards of 400,000 individuals who have received final deportation orders that are hiding in our communities. Their appeals have run out, and those orders tell them, ‘it’s time to go.’ But, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement can’t find them!.. Let me say up front that I respect the new leadership at the Department of Homeland Security and appreciate the fact that they are acknowledging the INS’ past mistakes. But there is no way the 2,000 agents they have assigned to find some 400,000 people can get the job done. They need help from the folks who come across these people everyday during routine traffic stops and during other activities in the course of their regular duty – police officers.”

July 9, 2003


NumbersUSA, an advocacy group for immigration reduction, in the section entitled “Hot Topic: State and Local Police in Immigration Law Enforcement” on its website (accessed June 15, 2007) stated:

“State and local police are badly needed to help overwhelmed federal immigration authorities apprehend and detain illegal aliens in the interior of our country…

Illegal aliens outnumber federal immigration agents by 5,000 to one. Only 2,000 are active in enforcing the immigration laws in the interior of our country. This number is too small to apprehend more than a fraction of the illegal alien population now here… There doesn’t appear to be much chance in the near future that the number of federal agents assigned to interior enforcement will reach anywhere near the level that would be required for the feds to do the job by themselves.

More than 600,000 state and local law enforcement officers already come into contact with illegal aliens every day. Many of them, in the course of their normal duties on their regular beat, routinely observe and even stop illegal aliens — for example for traffic violations. And the vast majority of these officers believe deeply in the rule of law and want to help protect the security of their country.”

June 15, 2007


James Jay Carafano, PhD, Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, in a June 14, 2004 testimony before the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, stated:

“The DHS [U.S. Department of Homeland Security] and the states should pursue, and Congress should support, the use of Section 287 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) as a mechanism for state and local law enforcement to enforce the immigration aspect of border security. Section 287 (g) of the INA provides authority for state and local enforcement to investigate, detain, and arrest aliens on civil and criminal grounds. Officers governed by a §287 (g) agreement must receive adequate training and operate under the direction of federal authorities. In addition, in a civil lawsuit, the state law enforcement officers would be considered to have been acting under federal authority, thereby shifting liability to the federal government and providing additional immunity for the state law enforcement officers enforcing federal laws.”

June 14, 2004

CON (no)


The National League of Cities, in a Jan. 27, 2017 article written by Federal Advocacy Program Director Yucel Ors and Manager of Race, Equity and Leadership Aileen Carr, “The Federal Government Needs to Fix the Immigration System–Not Cities,” available at, stated:

“NLC’s [National League of Cities’s] long-standing position is that measures requiring cities to use local law enforcement resources to enforce federal immigration laws are unfunded mandates that impose additional disproportionate responsibilities on local law enforcement, increase financial liability on local governments, and ultimately move us further from our foundational principles of federalism. Contrary to the president’s stated public safety goals, this action is likely to jeopardize the effectiveness of many local law enforcement efforts. Many police chiefs, mayors, and city councilmembers across the country are concerned that such policies impede efforts to preserve police-community relations and ensure that residents feel safe reporting crimes and accessing government services.”

Jan. 27, 2017


Doris Marie Provine, Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University, in a July 2013 article, “Should Local Police Be on the Front Lines of Immigration Enforcement?,” available at, stated:

“The nation’s founders thought it important to locate the policing function at the local level. Police, they believed, need to be accountable to the communities that know them best. The federal government’s co-option of local police for immigration enforcement violates that basic principle and makes policing harder. This approach also tends to mix the functions of criminal law with civil enforcement, resulting in an unappetizing mix that undercuts due-process protections against over-zealous police work and prosecution. The consequences of a simple infraction can suddenly become dire for immigrants and their families and friends, yet basic guarantees like the right to a lawyer and the right to bail and prompt arraignment are not available to those facing deportation.

There is much that needs fixing in the U.S. immigration system and all potential reforms are complex and inevitably controversial. But it should not be controversial to maintain the longstanding separation between local policing and federal deportation efforts. A small efficiency gain cannot justify compromising core American values. Individual rights, community safety, and democratic accountability must be given priority in a free society.”

July 2013


Steve Keane, Former Benton County (Washington) Sheriff, in a Feb. 1, 2017 article, “Tri-City Police Leaders Skeptical of Trump’s Plan to Enforce Federal Immigration Laws,” available at, stated:

“I don’t like our local guys doing federal law enforcement. Most of us are understaffed, and our primary responsibilities are to protect our local communities… We want to make sure we prioritize what we do to better to serve our communities. Immigration is a federal issue. It is their policy. We have a huge job to do protecting the community we swore to protect and serve.”

Feb. 1, 2017


Matthew J. Piers, JD, President, Chirag G. Badlani, JD, partner, and Caryn C. Lederer, JD, partner, Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd., in a Jan. 13, 2017 memo to Tom Cochran of the US Conference of Mayors and Darrel W. Stephens of the Major Cities Chief Association, available at, stated:

“Cities and states have various policies regarding local enforcement of federal immigration laws, and the expenditure of local resources on cooperation with ICE enforcement programs. These policies seek to preserve trust between local law enforcement organizations and the communities they serve, which is undermined when individuals fear that local law enforcement will enforce federal immigration laws. These policies also seek to preserve the limited financial resources available to state and local governments. Though they take many forms, these policies include limitations on local law enforcement making arrests based on immigration violations, limitations on local law enforcement gathering information about immigration status, compliance with ICE detainers, and sharing certain information with ICE, including an individual’s custody status or release date from local custody.

Any future efforts by the federal government to limit or defeat these local policies will likely face challenges under the Tenth Amendment and Spending Clause of the Constitution. Any attempts to directly compel local law enforcement to comply with ICE detainers or other enforcement provisions are likely to be struck down. Attempts to cut off all federal funding to jurisdictions with local policies limiting local enforcement will likely be found to exceed Congressional power under the Spending Clause, as will attempts to cut off large, general grants unrelated to immigration enforcement.”

Jan. 13, 2017


Michael Wildes, JD, Managing Partner at Wildes and Weinberg PC, in a Mar. 2008 article, “Leave Immigration Enforcement to the Feds,” available at, stated:

“At first blush, the ability of local police to enforce federal immigration law seems like a viable solution to our nation’s challenge of illegal immigration. However, piling the additional duty of immigration enforcement upon our already strained local police will do little more than force illegal immigrants and those who associate with them further into society’s shadows. The negative effects which will result thereafter are significant.

First, enforcement of immigration laws by local police will discourage and even prevent undocumented immigrants from accessing police services and will prevent police from the benefit of immigrants’ cooperation in fighting and investigating crime… Furthermore, adding immigration enforcement to the gambit of local police duties will strain the resources of local police. The main mission of local police is to prevent and solve local crime. Requiring local police to pick up the slack of federal immigration agencies will only divert crime fighting resources without solving the problem of illegal immigration.

Perhaps most importantly, local police run the risk of violating the civil rights of both legal and illegal immigrants when enforcing immigration laws.”

Mar. 2008


The Major Cities Chiefs Association, in a June 8, 2006 immigration committee report entitled “Recommendations for Enforcement of Immigration Laws by Local Police Agencies,” concluded that:

“Immigration enforcement by local police would likely negatively effect and undermine the level of trust and cooperation between local police and immigrant communities. If the undocumented immigrant’s primary concern is that they will be deported or subjected to an immigration status investigation, then they will not come forward and provide needed assistance and cooperation. Distrust and fear of contacting or assisting the police would develop among legal immigrants as well. Undoubtedly legal immigrants would avoid contact with the police for fear that they themselves or undocumented family members or friends may become subject to immigration enforcement.

Enforcement of federal immigration laws would be a burden that most major police agencies would not be able to bear under current resource levels… The specific immigration status of any particular person can vary greatly and whether they are in fact in violation of the complex federal immigration regulations would be very difficult if not almost impossible for the average patrol officer to determine. At this time local police agencies are ill equipped in terms of training, experience and resources to delve into the complicated area of immigration enforcement.

For example, the Katy, Texas Police Department participated in an immigration raid with federal agents in 1994. A total of 80 individuals who were detained by the police were later determined to be either citizens or legal immigrants with permission to be in the country. The Katy police department faced suits from these individuals and eventually settled their claims out of court.”

June 8, 2006