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A Project Response Publication of

The International Association of Chiefs of Police
July 2007

Key Terms
The following key terms will be used throughout this Project Response report:


A person who is not a national or citizen of the United States.

Alien Absconders A fugitive remaining in the United States after an immigration judge
has ordered them deported.


A native or naturalized person who owes allegiance to a government
and is entitled to protection from it.

Criminal Alien

Aliens who have committed crimes that make them eligible to be
removed from the United States.

Foreign National

A person who is not a Canadian citizen or permanent United States

Illegal Alien

The official term in legislation and the border patrol for a person who
has entered the country illegally and is deportable or is residing in the
United States illegally after entering legally (for example, using a
tourist visa and remaining after the visa expires).

Undocumented Immigrant
Any person of another country who has entered or remained in the
United States without permission and without legal status.

Any person who is residing in the United States as a legally
recognized and lawfully recorded permanent resident.

Sanctuary Cities

Cities/Officials that have adopted policies prohibiting city employees,
including law enforcement officials, from notifying federal authorities
of the presence of illegal aliens living in their jurisdictions. Adoption
of an unofficial “don’t ask” policy.


Fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is
strange or foreign.


July 2007
Dear Colleague:
I am pleased to provide you with this copy of a Police Chiefs Guide to Immigration Issues
a Project Response publication by the International Association of Chiefs of Police
Project Response reports are designed for police leaders. They focus on the core
dimensions of a critical issue, summarize the contemporary response to the issue, and
provide guidance concerning best policies and practices in the issue area.
This Project Response report focuses on the issue of immigration and the current issues
confronting federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement agencies within the United
States of America. The IACP certainly recognizes that immigration poses challenges for
law enforcement agencies in many nations throughout the world. It is our hope that the
issues and guidance presented in this document will prove to be a useful tool for all
The IACP is well aware of the controversy surrounding the question of whether state,
tribal and local law enforcement should be involved in the enforcement of federal
immigration law. This document is not intended to rule on this fundamental philosophical
question. It is the IACP’s belief that the question of state, tribal or local law enforcement’s
participation in immigration enforcement is an inherently local decision that must be made
by a police chief, working with his or her elected officials, community leaders and citizens.
This Project Response document provides police chiefs with an overview of the issues
surrounding immigration, both legal and illegal, provides background information on the
current resources available to law enforcement, and examines the concerns and
obstacles that currently surround the debate over immigration enforcement by the state,
tribal, and local law enforcement community. We hope it will promote informed decision
making as police leaders throughout the United States continue to confront this issue.


Joseph C. Carter

Table of Contents

Letter from the President

Page 3


A. Project Response
B. Immigration and Law Enforcement

Page 7
Page 7

Historical Perspective
A. The Changing Picture of Immigration
B. Inconsistent Local Law Enforcement Response
C. Conflicting Community Expectations
D. Opportunities and Challenges for Local Law Enforcement

Page 9
Page 9
Page 10
Page 11






Legal Update on Immigration Law
A. Federal Law
B. Local Restrictions on Immigration Enforcement
(Sanctuary Policies)
C. The Difference between Legal and Illegal Immigrants

Page 14

Immigration and Community Issues
A. Understanding and Managing the Politics of Immigration
B. Day Laborer Hiring Sites
C. Overcrowding in Housing
D. Anti-Immigrant Groups
E. Traffic Safety

Page 15
Page 16
Page 17
Page 18
Page 19

Challenges Facing Law Enforcement
A. Policing Diverse Communities
1. Trust vs. Fear
2. Language Barriers
3. Recruitment and Retention Issues
4. Resource Limitations
(State and Local Police Agencies and Tribal Law Enforcement)
B. Local Agency Collaboration with ICE

Page 13
Page 14

Page 21
Page 21
Page 22
Page 22
Page 23
Page 25

Immigration and Crime
A. Victims of Crime
1. Victim Vulnerability
2. Violence against Women
3. Human Trafficking Victims
4. Identity Theft Crimes/Fraudulent Identification Scams
B. Perpetrators of Crime

Page 28
Page 28
Page 29
Page 30
Page 31
Page 32



Page 35


Appendix A - Legal Update on Immigration Law

Page 36


Bibliography and Resources

Page 45


Project Response is a periodic initiative of the IACP to supply salient information and
discussion points on critical issues of current and emerging significance to law
enforcement professionals. The urgency of an issue and field need for the most
contemporary policy information initiate and govern selection of Project Response
Project Response reports are designed for police leaders. They focus on the core
dimensions of a critical issue, summarize the contemporary response to the issue, and
provide guidance concerning best policy and practice in the issue area. Reports are
disseminated to local, county, state, tribal and federal police agencies nationwide.
This Project Response report focuses on the issue of immigration and the current
issues confronting federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement agencies within the
United States of America. However, the IACP is aware that immigration, illegal and
otherwise, poses challenges for law enforcement agencies in many nations throughout
the world. It is our hope that the issues and guidance presented in this document will
prove to be a useful tool for all readers.

Immigration is not a new issue; in fact, it has been an essential part of the fabric of
American society since the nation’s inception. The distinction of ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’
immigration has existed since 1882, when Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion
Act – one of the nation's first immigration laws established to keep immigrant
populations out of the United States. Additionally, police response to the immigrant
community is not new either. For centuries, police agencies have sought to
understand the cultures and perspectives of the growing international communities
within their jurisdictions.
The scope and complexity of today’s immigrant communities present local law
enforcement with a host of challenges. The 2005 American Community Survey,
Foreign-Born Population report of the U.S. Census makes these challenges clear:
ƒ Of the 34.2 million persons in the 2005 U.S. Census survey, 12% were foreignborn.
ƒ 53% of foreign-born individuals were from Latin America, 27% from Asia, 14%
from Europe and 6% from other parts of the world.
To add to the complexity, these statistics translate in local communities to high growth
in immigrant populations with multiple cultures, languages and often unique
perspectives on, or fears of, the police. Thus, while local law enforcement desires to
build strong collaborative relationships with their communities, the complexity of 21st
century immigration and immigrant populations presents significant obstacles that
must be addressed.

One subcomponent of immigrant communities is illegal (or undocumented)
immigrants, who present an even more daunting problem. Illegal immigrants are not
counted in the actual census data. Thus, the actual number of undocumented
immigrants is unknown. From a police perspective, these undocumented immigrants
can create a significant volume of calls for service or police action, and there is no way
for the police to estimate or budget resources for this unquantifiable service demand.
Additionally, when an illegal immigrant is the victim of a crime, local police must deal
with several issues, the immigration status of the victim, the victimization of the
individual, and the crime itself.


The dynamics of immigration in America are constantly changing, becoming a
challenge not only for federal officials but more frequently for local police due to
language and culture barriers. The influx of foreign-born individuals has always been
an issue for states such as California, New York and New Jersey. When looking at
2005 U.S. Census data, 27.2% of California’s total population, 21.4% of New York’s
total population and 19.5% of New Jersey’s total population is comprised of foreign
born persons. Beyond these states, other regions of the United States now have
significant foreign-born populations as well, for example, Illinois with 13.6% and
Arizona with 14.5%. U.S. Census Bureau statistics reveal that substantial numbers of
foreign-born individuals now reside in all regions of the country: 37.3% in the west;
29.2% in the south; 22.2% in the northeast and 11.3% in the Midwest.1
Immigration patterns have also changed over time. In the 1800s and early 1900s
immigrants to the United States were primarily of European descent and had
seemingly similar cultural backgrounds to the individuals who founded the nation.
Today, the immigration picture has changed with many individuals coming from
different cultures, with different backgrounds and beliefs, and perceptions of the world.
However, the reasons for their arrival remain the same: they seek protection from
persecution (political or religious), they seek to join other family members who already
reside in the United States, and they seek opportunities to enhance their economic
situation and support families remaining in their home countries.
The educational and economic status of the foreign-born population varies widely.
Some immigrants have achieved high educational and/or professional stature. Others
have not achieved those statures and struggle to find low paying entry level
employment. Of particular concern are the less fortunate newcomers who are often
not as stabilized in the community, and often victims of exploitation.
Turning to those without legal status, the exact number of illegal immigrants in the
United States is unknown, but estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau report that
figure to be 8.7 million. Other non-government entities estimate that number to be as
high as 20 million. Again, while no one can estimate the number of illegal immigrants
entering the United States annually, several sources estimate the number to be just
below 1 million. Some illegal immigrants gain entry to the U.S. independently, while
others gain entry through use of criminal enterprises.2

Reports coming into the IACP from law enforcement agencies across the country
reinforce the critical nature of the immigrant issue and the challenges presented to
local law enforcement that create inconsistencies in response. For example:

U.S. Census Bureau, Percent of People Who Are Foreign Born: 2005; 2005 American Community Survey.
Brad Knickerbocker “Illegal immigrants in the US: How many are there?” Christian Science Monitor, May 16, 2006.


ƒ One major city agency launched a new outreach initiative to work closely with
its immigrant communities on the same day the local sheriffs department crossdeputized each deputy as a U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
agent to pursue and arrest illegal immigrants.
ƒ Some cities have been faced with divided community opinion on ‘flashpoint’
issues such as day laborer hiring sites—some calling for the police to support
such locations, while others contend that most laborers at these sites are illegal
and should be arrested.
ƒ Many agencies have sought advice on balancing their local police mission with
federal immigration laws and mandates and questioned their own competency
to enforce federal immigration law without additional training and or policy in
ƒ Selected local jurisdictions have declared themselves to be ‘Sanctuary Cities’
making it clear that they do not seek to collaborate with ICE agents in any way,
while other jurisdictions welcome ICE agents and seek their assistance.
ƒ A host of agencies recognize their lack of understanding of the international
communities they police as well as their inability to effectively communicate
with persons who demonstrate both language and cultural differences.

Law enforcement agencies are sensitive to and generally desire to appropriately
respond to, their community’s needs. Immigration presents a confusing picture for the
police, with various elements of the community taking adversarial positions. Examples
ƒ Community groups are seeking to support immigrants while other groups are
focusing on undocumented immigrants and enforcement actions.
ƒ Governing body leaders are seeking to protect undocumented immigrants and
other leaders are seeking to deport them.
ƒ Adjacent jurisdictions are taking opposite positions on various immigration
ƒ Law enforcement agencies are forging close working relationships with ICE,
while neighboring jurisdictions are expressing little or no interest in engaging
ICE in local immigration issues
ƒ Some state and local law enforcement agencies are realizing the inability of
ICE to consistently respond to their needs.
• Local community/political leaders are opening and operating day laborer hiring
sites while some community residents are protesting against the sites.


ƒ Constituents expressing concern that state, local and tribal agencies may be
wasting valuable resources while working at cross purposes with federal
Faced with these kinds of conflicting positions, local police leaders across the United
States are attempting to strike a balanced position and make carefully thought out
policy decisions on all aspects of immigration and immigrant communities. In addition,
police and political leaders struggle with federal immigration laws and requirements as
they determine an appropriate relationship with federal immigration enforcement.

It is important that police become familiar with and competent in responding to their
growing international populations. However, that familiarity requires additional
educational and training efforts that translate into significant commitments of time and
resources—scarce commodities, especially for smaller police organizations.
Immigrant communities present a challenge to the police, because while the largest
proportion of the immigrant population has legal status in the United States, a smaller
portion are illegal/undocumented entrants into the country. Police agencies and their
officers are faced with a primary dilemma—how much focus to place on the smaller,
illegal component of the immigrant community vs. the larger, legal one.
Looking at immigration, particularly illegal immigrants, from the perspective of crime
and victimization causes yet another set of problems for the police—when crime
occurs, the legal status of the perpetrator or the victim may become a critical concern.
Research has shown that immigrants are more likely to be victimized than other
members of the general population. In particular, illegal immigrants are often afraid to
report crime to local authorities, making them easy targets for those with criminal
intentions. Questions the police may face include:
ƒ Should the police even inquire as to immigration status when dealing with a
victim of a violent crime?
ƒ If the victim is an illegal immigrant, should ICE be contacted?
ƒ Is the offender a legal or illegal immigrant?
ƒ What steps should be taken with an illegal immigrant offender?
ƒ When and how should ICE be involved?
ƒ Will ICE have the capacity to respond?
One example of how difficult these issues become is in the area of human trafficking.
When police determine that a trafficking situation exists, the victims of these crimes
are likely to be illegal. Police must be extremely well trained in such complicated
crimes in order to avoid responses that will revictimize the victims and decrease their
willingness to serve as witnesses to build strong cases against the traffickers.

The remainder of this Project Response report addresses the set of complex issues
surrounding immigration and immigrant communities and provides law enforcement
officials with information that can help them make informed decisions as they craft
their own policies. The IACP views law enforcement response to immigration issues
as a local issue requiring a locally developed approach. This report simply seeks to
inform those approaches.


Due to the continuing complexity and changes in immigration law, it is critical for all
law enforcement agencies to fully understand existing law on how federal, state,
local or tribal police agencies should or can respond to legal or illegal immigrants.
The IACP recommends reviewing its Legal Officer Section (LOS) Update (Appendix
A) on all current law and legislation. Law enforcement executives are also
encouraged to seek legal advice in interpreting their authority as it exists in their
The following is a summary of the key points within the LOS update focusing on: (a)
federal law, (b) local restrictions on enforcement, and (c) illegal vs. legal immigrants.
The full text explaining each of these points is found in Appendix A of this report:

ƒ State and local officers may have inherent authority under federal law to
enforce criminal immigration violations, if they are authorized by local law to
make arrests for federal crimes.
ƒ There is no general agreement as to whether state and local law enforcement
officers have the authority to make arrests for federal civil offenses related to
the Immigration and Naturalization Act.
ƒ Federal law does not mandate state or local law enforcement immigration
ƒ State and local law must be taken into account on any state or local effort to
enforce immigration law.
ƒ Most immigration violations are civil (being in the United States illegally, failure
to depart after expiration of a visa and some violations related to stowaways)
and not criminal (illegally entering the United States, alien smuggling and
willfully disobeying an order of removal).
ƒ National Crime Information Center (NCIC) entries contain both civil and criminal
immigration violators. Officers should be careful to determine the nature of the
underlying offense resulting in the NCIC entry. An entry into NCIC does not
guarantee the state or local officer has actual authority to take the person into
ƒ A federal immigration “warrant” may be an administratively issued document.
Before taking a person into custody solely on the basis of an NCIC entry based
on an immigration “warrant,” officers should verify whether the warrant has
been issued for a criminal or civil violation.
ƒ The power to detain is ultimately derived from the authority to arrest. What
constitutes “probable cause” in immigration matters may not be easy to discern.

ƒ Congress has specifically authorized local law enforcement in selected
enforcement areas, such as the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
of 1996 and certain U.S. codes under Title 8.
ƒ The U.S. Supreme Court has recently indicated that state and local officers
may question criminal suspects and detainees about their immigration status.
ƒ State and local officers retain the ability to enforce state law violations even if
their ability to enforce federal immigration law is restricted or non-existent. If,
during the course of an investigation violations of federal immigration laws are
uncovered, law enforcement may contact federal authorities.

Sanctuary Cities or “non-cooperation policies” started during the 1980s religious
sanctuary movement by American churches. These churches provided sanctuary to
thousands of undocumented Central American immigrants fleeing civil war in their
native countries. Recently, many cities have adopted “don’t ask-don’t tell” polices that
do not require government/city employees including law enforcement to report to
federal officials on illegal immigrants who may be living or working in their jurisdictions.
ƒ Federal law prohibits state and local laws from restricting the sharing of
immigration status information with federal authorities.
ƒ Locally adopted sanctuary policies can be found nationwide. For example:
Baltimore, MD, Takoma Park, MD, Los Angeles, CA, Detroit, MI, and New York,







There are several legal issues, when taken as a whole that are complicated and
create immense challenges for local law enforcement agencies as they seek to fully
understand and respond appropriately to federal, state, and/or locally enacted laws.
The complete LOS Update in Appendix A of this report provides a starting point for
agencies to address each issue.
ƒ Determining the difference between legal and illegal status is complex and
carries with it significant responsibilities.
ƒ Effective training will likely be lengthy, requiring an extraordinary commitment of
agency resources.
ƒ Failure to train effectively carries significant ramifications, risks and liability.
ƒ All agencies must conform to “consular notification” obligations whenever any
foreign national is detained or arrested – even if the officers are not engaged in
immigration enforcement.

As would be expected with any contentious public policy issue, there is little
consensus on the issue of immigration and how local communities should respond.
This Project Response report has already highlighted any number of immigration
policy areas where local agencies - even agencies in the same county - disagree
on the proper response. Thus immigration policy has become an overwhelming
issue for any police leader in America. To complicate matters further, police
leaders must fully understand the position of their governing bodies to provide a
consistent message to their communities.
The majority of police leaders report to a governing body or authority. State police
and highway patrol directors report to the governor, county police chiefs report to a
county board, municipal chiefs report to either a mayor or council, while sheriffs are
elected and respond to their constituents. It is often these governing authorities
that arrive at the immigration policy the police leader must concur with and
implement as necessary. Unfortunately, governing authorities may not arrive at
policies that please all members of the community, placing the police leader in the
middle of political policy. Sanctuary Cities, overcrowding in housing and day
laborer hiring sites are examples of policy issues that are fraught with controversy
for law enforcement.
There is no simple solution to the problem of immigration politics; however, police
leaders can work successfully within the political environment. The most required
skill is awareness—in particular, awareness of conflicting positions of those entities
that the police must constantly relate to:
ƒ Community residents

ƒ Sworn officers

ƒ Community associations

ƒ Federal officials

ƒ Governing body officials

ƒ Civilian police employees

ƒ Educational leaders

ƒ Immigration advocacy groups

ƒ Business leaders

ƒ Media

ƒ Police union leaders


It is highly unlikely that all of the above entities will agree on immigration
policy. Thus, knowledge of the conflicts among these constituent groups is a
powerful tool for the police leader. Being aware of the sensitivity of any one
group can allow the police leader to address or engage that group with a level
of sensitivity that will diffuse anger, even if the police must support or enforce
an unpopular policy.

One of the most highly charged immigration issues that has sparked
community uproar and political rhetoric is the establishment of day laborer
hiring sites. Initially confined to large city sweat shops and agricultural
seasonal crop work, the growth in need for workers in the meat processing
industry, construction, landscaping and assembly-line has dramatically
increased the number of pick up sites for unskilled, low - wage, daily laborers.
The majority of people who respond to these sites are immigrants who want
to work, with studies showing that up to 84% are illegal immigrants.3
However, some agencies have reported that out - of - work United States
citizens also attempt to gain employment at these sites.
The problems identified with the day laborer sites include: (a) congregating of
the laborers in the streets causing traffic disturbances, (b) complaints from
businesses of public urination in parking lots and alleys due to a lack of
sanitary facilities and (c) complaints about public drunkenness and
harassment of pedestrians. Conversely, many businesses have admitted that
these same persons have made purchases in their establishments.
Advocates of immigrant rights have worked diligently to get local governments
to establish formal hiring sites that would allow employers to hire workers
from a centralized location. Some day laborer sites offer English language
classes as well as job training and assist with securing housing and
recognizing and reporting domestic violence.
Immigrant advocates would like to see the establishment of an orderly hiring
process by establishing legitimate employer lists and matching workers with
those employers. There have been many reported cases of employers not
paying the workers after they have performed their duties. With an
established list, if there is a complaint of non-payment, there would be a
procedure to identify and investigate the registered employer.
Conversely, many anti-immigration groups and citizen groups have
demanded that their tax dollars not be spent on establishing sites for
immigrants and/or employers who are breaking the law. Even in light of this

Abel Valenzuela Jr., “Day Laborers as Entrepreneurs? Mexican Immigrants in Los Angeles Area.”
Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, April 1, 2001.


opposition, some areas have established additional sites to accommodate the
numbers and, therefore, are encouraging more workers to come to the sites.
Hiring illegal immigrants at a day laborer center is illegal under the 1986
Immigration Reduction and Control Act (IRCA). Employers who hire illegal
workers often avoid the legal standards under the state and local labor
departments, such as paying less than the minimum wage, failing to withhold
taxes and avoiding paying into the unemployment fund and other expenses.
By hiring illegal workers, the earning capacity of the legal workers may be
undercut because the illegal workers will accept much lower wages.
Some jurisdictions have established Anti-Solicitation laws that define where
and when employers are allowed to solicit employees. Many citizens have
challenged the legality of these laws, most recently in Gaithersburg, MD and
Herndon, VA. However, most law enforcement agencies only enforce these or
other ordinances, such as loitering and no trespassing, if they receive a

When immigrants come to the United States whether legally or illegally, they
are generally not in a position to pay the high cost of housing. So, they seek
other immigrants of the same nationality who have gained housing and will
rent space with them (i.e., living room, dining room, shared bedrooms). As the
immigration population has grown so have the incidences of overcrowding in
housing. One local jurisdiction contacted by the IACP reported that in 2002,
there were 80 complaints of overcrowding reported and by 2006, that rate had
more than tripled.
Housing complaints are generally called in by neighbors and neighborhood
watch groups who notice an influx of persons and/or cars. Local police
agencies responding to calls for service (loud parties or domestic calls) have
been trained to notice the conditions of the living space (sleeping bags,
futons, blankets in non-bedrooms, second kitchens installed). Housing
inspectors on routine business can also identify overcrowding issues. The
violations that the owner/landlord could be charged with typically include,
“Transient Lodging” or “Running a Boarding House without a License.”
Generally, law enforcement officials will take no immediate police action
unless a criminal violation is observed and instead will refer any housing
violations to the local housing authority. Law enforcement officials have in
many cases been instrumental in detecting human trafficking events as well
as cases of child neglect, where parents have left underage minors in the
home unattended while they go out to look for employment or to go to work.


The number one issue of overcrowding in housing is safety. Many of the
homes do not have working fire/smoke detectors. Also, the makeshift kitchens
that have been added have not been properly inspected and generally have
faulty wiring and venting. Additionally, in cold weather insufficient heat in the
homes causes the inappropriate use of space heaters and other nonconventional devices not intended for heating, for example, ovens, stoves and
space heaters. Having so many persons in a home the issue of egress during
an emergency situation rises exponentially. A second issue is that many
unscrupulous landlords know this practice is taking place, but simply collect
the rent (at a higher rate) and seldom make repairs as needed. Because they
are not abiding by the law, the immigrants feel they have no recourse to
report the landlord/owner.
Police agencies should note living conditions when responding to calls for
service and report any situations out of the ordinary to the local housing
authority, if available. Police officers should work with neighborhood watch or
other community groups and become more aware of the changes in the
neighborhoods that they patrol. Many agencies in conjunction with the local
fire department have for example gone door to door in poorer neighborhoods
handing out smoke detectors.

A feature of all countries with substantial immigration patterns is opposition to
immigration. In the context of United States immigration issues, antiimmigration or “nativism” infers a distinction between Americans born in the
United States and individuals who have immigrated or are “first generation.”
Nativism is based on fears that immigrants do not share American values.
This concept is not new in American history and politics. Complaints by British
settlers against non-English speaking German immigrants in the late 1700s
prompted English-only legislation; religious differences in the Northeast
during the early 1800s led to the formation of the Know-Nothing political party,
representing strong anti-immigrant and especially anti-Roman Catholic
sentiment.4 Chinese, Irish and Italian immigrants were victims of xenophobia
during the Western expansion of the mid-to late 1880s.
In more recent times, many groups have linked security concerns with illegal
immigration, since the attacks of September 11. While groups like these
advocate patriotism and national security, intelligence reports suggest that
increasing numbers of former and current members of hate groups, which
advocate violence against immigrants (right wing militia, Neo-Nazi and KKK
members), have joined these efforts. Frequently, the main sources of
communication for members of these organizations are Internet homepages,
chat rooms and email.

Encyclopedia Britannica, “Know-Nothing party.” 2007. Encyclopedia Britannica online.


Anti-immigrant sentiments tend to originate out of fear that immigrants:
ƒ Consume jobs that should be held by Americans.
ƒ Diminish a sense of community and nationality.
ƒ Drain precious community resources and welfare systems.
ƒ Lead to overpopulation and eventually replace existing cultures with
their own.
Anti-immigration issues tend to also serve as political distractions from real
social, political and economic problems.
Those seeking fair treatment for immigrants point out that arguments like
“isolation” (immigrants tend to isolate themselves in their own communities
and refuse to learn the local language) and “swamping” (too many immigrants
arriving at one destination) have racist overtones as they tend to be targeted
toward immigrants of developing countries, who account for the majority of
immigrants in the United States. Typically, they are employed in lower-paid,
more menial jobs “natives” generally do not wish to perform. Proponents
further argue that immigration tends to improve economic conditions of
communities because immigrants spend money on products and services as
well. Lastly, proponents point out that immigrants fill a future need in a
declining, aging workforce. Anti-immigrant groups rarely accept these

Immigrants, both legal and illegal, are believed to contribute to a wide variety
of traffic safety concerns identified below.
Individuals who are unable to understand spoken or written directions in the
English language can be a danger not only to themselves, but to the motoring
public and police officers. The need to understand traffic signs, warnings and
safety directions can be critical in the operation of a motor vehicle and in
coping with emergency conditions, such as crashes, inclement weather or
tactical emergencies.
Regarding driver’s licenses, in many, if not most areas of jurisdiction
throughout the United States, operation of a motor vehicle is virtually
essential, if one wishes to work, conduct routine business or the activities of
daily life. In addition, the driver’s license has, by default, become the standard
means of identification for virtually every business transaction from cashing a
check to boarding a commercial aircraft. In recent years, especially since the


September 11 attacks, states have tightened the requirements for obtaining
operator and commercial vehicle licenses, in some cases requiring proof of
“legal presence” before issuing licenses.
These practices have resulted in two very common circumstances:
ƒ Persons in the United States illegally operate motor vehicles without
benefit of a license, in the hope that they will not be stopped or
otherwise required to display a license, or
ƒ These persons obtain licenses by fraud or misrepresentation either
through state licensing authorities, or obtain counterfeit licenses.
In either of the above scenarios, unqualified individuals are operating motor
vehicles without first complying with testing or background identification
Persons in the United States illegally who need to operate motor vehicles, yet
have no legitimate means of obtaining a driver’s license or other identifying
documentation are also unable to obtain liability insurance on the vehicles
they operate. When these individuals become involved in crashes they are
unable to make financial restitution in cases where they are at fault, thus
shifting financial liability to other insured motorists. Ultimately, the financial
burden is shifted to all other motorists through higher insurance rates in areas
where this practice is prevalent.


1. Trust vs. Fear
Immigrants in the United States come from different parts of the world; the
majority now entering are from developing countries, where the image of law
enforcement is drastically different than that within the United States. Often
the police in some of these countries are perceived as violent, corrupt and
ineffective. These perceptions are often transferred to the immigrants’
perception of the American police as well, creating a general reluctance to
seek law enforcement assistance. These tenets also influence crime
underreporting within immigrant communities, particularly domestic violence,
sexual assault and gang activities.
Ethnic minorities are often afraid of the perceived potential for racial profiling
and prejudice towards them by the police and the communities they reside in.
This dynamic results in fear and distrust in the immigrant community and a
general lack of cooperation with law enforcement.
A lack of trust towards government and public institutions, particularly banks,
is shared by many immigrant groups. Because of the sometimes corrupt and
unstable situations in their native countries, immigrants oftentimes do not trust
banks to safeguard and protect their money. As a result, many immigrants
keep their money and valuables at home or at their businesses, thus making
them vulnerable to crime.
The law enforcement experience relating to immigrant issues shows that
language barriers and a lack of knowledge about local and federal laws can
often lead to a misunderstanding of police directions by the foreign-born.
Through daily contact and many outreach programs, local agencies have
been working to change the negative image of police and build trust and
confidence in immigrant neighborhoods. Research demonstrates that people
who believe in officers’ good motives are more likely to cooperate and obey,
perceiving police as a legitimate authority.
One of the central benchmarks of a well-commanded police department is
establishing good relationships with the local communities, including those
composed of immigrants. Working with these communities is critical in
preventing and investigating crimes. Communication has been identified as a
major concern. Police departments can significantly enhance their capability
by hiring bilingual officers, professional interpreters or volunteers from the
community. Some local agencies have introduced pocket translators for their
officers. Holding meetings with immigrant community members supported by


training materials (videotapes and brochures in foreign languages) provides
mutual understanding of cultural differences and can be a great opportunity to
acquaint newcomers with local laws and ordinances.
2. Language Barriers
One area identified as the strongest obstacle in building cohesive
relationships with the immigrant community has been a lack of understanding
because of different language barriers. U.S. Census 2002 Supplementary
Survey data reports that 20% of the U.S. population speaks a language other
then English at home. Additionally, one fifth of American school age children
speak a language other than English at home, with 7 out of 10 primarily
speaking Spanish at home. Many newly arrived immigrants are from Central
America, China and the Middle East. The majority of police departments are
neither equipped nor staffed to meet these language needs.
When an immigrant population does not understand the predominant culture,
speak the language and distrusts the government, they will not or simply
cannot report crimes and thus their victim status remains largely unknown to
the police. Some agencies have hired bilingual staff for community outreach
and have attempted to recruit bilingual officers to address this growing
language gap.
3. Recruitment and Retention Issues
The almost 18,000 state, local and tribal police agencies across the United
States have, for the last decade, sought to diversify their agencies, seeking
gender and ethnic balance so that their organizations more accurately reflect
the communities they serve. Strides in gender and ethnic diversity have been
made over the past two decades, particularly in urban areas, where AfricanAmerican, Latino and Asian officers have joined their white counterparts.
Unfortunately, many ethnic immigrant populations continue to have little or no
representation on most law enforcement agencies. For example, while Haitian
immigrant communities have grown in many urban areas over the past
decade, few Haitians have been assimilated into policing ranks. Thus,
agencies attempting to respond to an incident in a Haitian neighborhood have
little understanding of the culture and typically no command of the FrenchHaitian language. While this is just one example, it underscores the need for
local police agencies to continue to broaden diversity within their ranks or
seek the necessary skills to communicate with non-English speaking
Recruitment within newly emerging immigrant communities presents
significant challenges for law enforcement. Historically, police agencies have
relied upon traditional means of marketing their organizations and seeking


recruits-posters, newspaper or TV ads, etc. In many cases, traditional
outreach will not reach communities who may read papers or watch television
in their native languages. Police agencies seeking diversification of their
workforce must use nontraditional means (recruiting in immigrant
neighborhoods by immigrants and advertising in local immigrant newspapers)
to reach immigrant populations within their communities.
Beyond recruitment, retention becomes an even more daunting issue for
many agencies. When a very small number of any ethnic group joins a largely
non-diverse force, issues of assimilation and acceptance loom large.
Agencies that aggressively seek to diversify through recruitment must
simultaneously ensure that their agencies and officers are receptive to, and
supportive of, these new officers or civilian employees.
4. Resource Limitations For Law Enforcement
State and Local Police Agencies
More than 76% of all U.S. police agencies have 25 or fewer sworn officers
serving populations up to 25,000. IACP research revealed that federal funding
for local law enforcement has been significantly cut since 2002.5 The impact
on local policing has been devastating. Simultaneously, over the past several
years, immigrant populations have grown considerably in smaller and rural
communities where entry-level jobs are available. However, police funding
and resources have not kept pace with the growth of their service
populations, and the resulting impact that this problem has on police
Policing immigrant communities is a unique role for local law enforcement.
While the cost of policing immigrant communities cannot be quantified, the
following discussion highlights these areas of resource demand that law
enforcement agencies face on a continuing basis. Challenges to law
enforcement agency hiring practices, policies, and training for officers,
dispatchers, support staff and command personnel include the following:
ƒ Recruitment of bilingual sworn and civilian staff persons with language
ƒ Creation of volunteer or paid interpreter lists for police and the courts.
ƒ Cultural competence training to teach officers about possible behavior
characteristics of an immigrant suspect from another country and
culture during interviews.
In most instances, signs that detect
deception in current interview training do not apply to other cultures.

International Association of Chiefs of Police, “Executive Summary, The Impact of the Proposed FY 2008
Budget on State and Local Law Enforcement,” 2007.


Example: Many cultures feel that it is a sign of disrespect to look
someone directly in the eyes when speaking, however, in the U.S. we
interpret not having eye contact as a sign of deception.
ƒ Accessing types of services provided by ICE/Homeland Security to
assist local police agencies in identifying international suspects or
victims, such as determining ports of entry and deportation information
and providing training for officers, dispatchers and others.
ƒ Information and training on what is an acceptable ID card (for example,
a foreign consulate ID Card) and recognizing fraudulent documents.
ƒ The rules and laws on notification of foreign consulates when foreign
nationals are detained.
ƒ Technology development and procurement for translation devices for
various languages.
ƒ Information/criminal intelligence sharing to ensure that information
flows between agencies.
In addition to the resources and training challenges, review of police policy
and practices is necessary. Relationship building must also occur between
the police and the leaders of immigrant communities. This process takes time
and effort and political support from city or county councils and mayors. Law
enforcement simply cannot function adequately without the support and
cooperation of the populations it serves. An adequate law enforcement
outreach and response to prevent fear, crime and disorder requires
cooperation and understanding of all citizens at all levels.
Tribal Law Enforcement
Within the continental United States and Alaska there are 561 federally
recognized Indian tribes - a population of over 4.5 million. More than 200
tribal police departments provide law enforcement services for the land-based
tribes. Tribal lands represent more than 267 miles of the United States border
and are patrolled by tribal police departments and the agencies with which
they have intergovernmental agreements. Patrolling tribal lands to prevent
illegal immigration, especially along the Southwest border between the United
States and Mexico, is a constant and expensive challenge for tribal law
Resource issues are a major concern to the tribal police departments that
patrol the vast area of Indian Country, both for day-to-day operations as well
as illegal immigration interdiction. The tribe that patrols the largest Southwest
border area, the Tohono O’odham, expends more than 2 million dollars per


year to interdict illegal trafficking of drugs and of humans. Due to the fact that
all felonies on Indian land are federal offenses, U.S. attorneys must try these
cases. The backlog of federal prosecutions causes significant delays in case
processing and adjudication.
Since 2005, the U.S. Border Patrol has improved patrol and interdiction in and
around Indian land by cross-deputizing tribal police officers that serve as both
police officers and border patrol officers. The St. Regis Mohawk tribe on the
United States/Canadian border is an example of cross-deputation to allow
patrolling of tribal lands and waterways to interdict illegal trafficking in drugs
and persons.

Some local law enforcement agencies welcome a partnership with ICE to
address illegal immigration problems. Other agencies decline such
collaboration for a variety of reasons (sanctuary policies). In either case, it is
important for local law enforcement to fully understand the role of ICE in
federal law enforcement and what resources exist.
ICE was established on March 1, 2003, as part of the Department of
Homeland Security (DHS). ICE represents the largest investigative force
within DHS. ICE’s principal duties and responsibilities include enforcing the
nation’s immigration and customs laws and protecting federal facilities. ICE is
comprised of four integrated divisions:

Office of Investigations – responsible for investigating a wide range
of domestic and international activities arising from the movement of
people and goods that violate immigration and custom laws and
threaten national security.


Office of Detention and Removal Operations – responsible for
public safety and national security by ensuring the departure from the
United States of all removable aliens and by enforcing the nation’s
immigration laws.


Federal Protective Service – responsible for policing, securing and
ensuring a safe environment in which federal agencies can conduct
their business by reducing threats posed against more than 8,800
federal government facilities nationwide.


Office of Intelligence – responsible for the collection, analysis, and
dissemination of strategic and tactical intelligence data for use by the
operational elements of ICE and DHS.


The Law Enforcement Support Center (LESC) located in Williston, VT is
administered by ICE. The center operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to
supply real-time assistance to federal, state and local law enforcement
officers who are either investigating or have arrested foreign-born individuals
involved in criminal activity. The telephone number to contact the LESC is
(802) 872-6050.
ICE has indicated that they want to work closely with local law enforcement
on immigration issues, however, given the increased demands of state and
local law enforcement agencies in addressing those issues, ICE has been
severely hampered by the limited amount of special agents assigned
compared to the approximately 18,000 state and local law enforcement
agencies who may need their assistance. Further, ICE response can vary by
state, by region and even time of day – with few resources available when
local agencies seek support after normal business hours.
Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act authorizes the
Secretary of DHS to enter into agreements with state and local law
enforcement agencies to permit specially trained officers to enforce
immigration law enforcement functions. Under this provision, the states must
sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) and officers must receive
specialized training and function under the supervision of ICE. In September
2002, Florida was the first state to enter into an agreement with ICE and
trained 35 law enforcement officers, who were dispersed among 7 regional
task forces across the state to perform immigration enforcement functions
that pertain to domestic security and counterterrorism needs. Additionally,
only the following jurisdictions have entered into these agreements since its
inception: Alabama, Arizona, California, North Carolina, Tennessee and
Criteria for officers to be selected include:
• U. S. Citizen.
• Current background investigation completed.
• Minimum 2 years experience in current position.
• No disciplinary actions pending.
ICE offers 2 training programs—a 5 week program for field-level law
enforcement officers and a 4 week program for correctional personnel. The
ICE academy sets the standard for testing and uses certified instructors to
conduct the training.


The initiatives under this program have had a successful impact on illegal
immigration and have garnered hundreds of leads, arrests and convictions for
a variety of federal and state violations.
A recent ICE operation in conjunction with a local police agency yielded 43
illegal aliens, including 35 who had criminal histories, 13 with prior DUIrelated charges, 4 with convictions for indecent liberties with children and 1
person with multiple convictions including kidnapping, robbery and DUI.
Since April of 2006, the task force has arrested more than 250 illegal aliens.
ICE removed more than 186,600 illegal aliens from the United States in FY
2006, a 10% increase over the number from the prior fiscal year.6
In November 2005, The Department of Homeland Security instituted the
Secure Border Initiative in an effort to secure America’s borders and reduce
illegal immigration. ICE is approaching these efforts by expanded fugitive
operations and criminal alien programs and an expedited removal process.
This process enables ICE to quickly remove “other than Mexican” illegal
aliens to their home countries. Since the initiative was implemented,
approximately 4,000 non-Mexican aliens have been turned over to ICE for
detention under expedited removal, with close to 3,000 being removed.


U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, “Executive Summary, ICE Accomplishments FY 2006,”
October 30, 2006.


1. Victim Vulnerability
People within immigrant populations are extremely vulnerable to crime. Many
immigrant crimes are not reported; these crimes occur more often by
immigrant perpetrators against their own than U.S.-born perpetrators.
Criminals tend to operate in language environments they know and
understand, which complicates criminal detection by law enforcement and
increases the potential for retaliation by a perpetrator should a victim come
forward to report a crime.
Human rights violations within immigrant communities are the most common
form of victimization, but vulnerabilities can and do extend into the economic
and social fabric of a community. “Ethnic protection societies” run by criminals
provide their “members” with jobs, housing and other necessities and can
serve as venues for extortion, robberies, identity thefts and business scams.
For instance, criminals may believe immigrants tend to carry cash instead of
relying upon bank accounts; therefore these immigrants are more likely to be
targets of robberies.
Immigrant women may be less likely to report abuse than nonimmigrant
women due to language barriers, cultural differences, varying perceptions of
law enforcement response, and a fear of deportation if they are not legally
documented to live within the United States. Many immigrant families are a
combination of documented and undocumented individuals, which may
account for a reluctance to report a crime if a victim/witness believes it may
lead to a family member’s deportation.
Victims may also have limited information about how to recognize and report
a crime, may concede to “social pressure” by not involving outsiders in “family
matters,” or they might even be afraid of authorities. For example, they may
not be aware domestic violence is a crime or might possibly believe religious
doctrine supports corporal punishment of wives. Additionally, they may not
recognize law enforcement will help them, regardless of immigrant status, or
even be aware that services exist in their own language or how to access
them. If an independent interpreter is not available during a call for service,
law enforcement should refrain from having the victim’s family member
interpret for the victim, as the interpreter may be known to the victim or even
be the perpetrator.


2. Violence Against Women
We are only beginning to understand the dynamics of power and control and
the barriers that face victims of crimes and violence against women especially
immigrant women, such as domestic violence and sexual assault. These
barriers are compounded for immigrant women living in the United States due
to a number of reasons, including immigration status and concerns, language
barriers, social isolation, community perceptions and economic disparities.
Perpetrators of domestic abuse will often use their partner’s immigration
status, fear of law enforcement and misinformation about the U.S. legal
system as tools to exert power and coerce the partner into staying in the
situation. Specific provisions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of
1994 are aimed at reducing violence and providing relief for immigrant women
in situations of domestic violence. Before the Act was passed, an immigrant
woman who was a victim of domestic violence would face deportation if she
left the marriage and her legal status was dependent upon conditional
residency with a spouse who was a citizen or who had permanent status.
The VAWA allowed women to file on their own behalf and on behalf of their
children without relying on an abusive partner.
“T” Visas
Recognizing that victims of human trafficking should be protected rather than punished
for crimes they are forced to commit, the federal government created the “T” visa to assist
victims who are undocumented foreign nationals gain legal stay in the United States.
The “T” visa is available for victims who self-petition to stay in the United States for up
to 4 years if they can show that they:
1. Have been a victim of a severe form of trafficking.
2. Have complied with reasonable requests to assist in the investigation or
prosecution of their case (or are not yet 18 years of age).
3. Are physically present in the United States on account of trafficking.
4. Would suffer severe hardship if repatriated.
Under the law, local, state and federal law enforcement officers can assist victims with
their application for a “T” visa by completing the I-914B form as part of the victim’s
application to the Department of Homeland Security. The form requests that you indicate
the following:
1. Whether the individual is a victim of a severe form of trafficking.
2. Whether the victim complied with a reasonable request to assist in the
investigation or prosecution.
Form I-914B can be sent at any point during the investigation. It does not create a
sponsorship relationship nor hold law enforcement responsible for future acts of the
individual. The form is reviewed by federal authorities, along with the victim’s
application, in determining whether to issue or deny the visa.


The reauthorization of VAWA in 2000 provided for further assistance for noncitizens through the creation of the “U” visa, or “U-nonimmigrant status,”
allowing immigrant women who have suffered severe mental or physical
abuse while in the United States as a result of crimes committed against them
to stay in the United States and receive assistance benefits. Since the
inception of the U visa in 2000, there have been no regulations created to
clarify the application procedure. Women who meet the criteria for a U visa
should not be deported; however, many victims of severe violence and abuse
have been known to be deported or have not received adequate services due
to the lack of official regulation.
3. Human Trafficking Victims
Human trafficking, commonly referred to as “modern day slavery,” is a global
phenomenon that involves obtaining or maintaining the labor or services of
another through the use of force, fraud or coercion in violation of an
individual’s human rights. Generating billions of dollars in profit each year,
human trafficking is one of the world’s fastest growing criminal activities,
operating on the same scale as the illegal trade of guns and drugs.7 Unlike
the trade in drugs and weapons, those who traffic in humans can sell and
resell their “commodity” forcing each victim to suffer repeatedly. Fueled by
global economic conditions and increased international mobility, the market
for and trade of human beings continues to expand rapidly.
Although actual figures are difficult to determine due to the underground
nature of the trade, the U.S. State Department’s 2006 Trafficking in Persons
Report estimates that up to 900,000 people are trafficked per year
internationally, with 17,000 of these victims trafficked into the United States.
It is estimated that 80% of those are who are trafficked are women and
Traffickers prey upon the vulnerabilities of their victims. In order to coerce and
control victims, traffickers will often:
ƒ Confiscate papers and legal documents.
ƒ Misrepresent U.S. laws and consequences for entering the country
ƒ Threaten victims with arrest or deportation.


U.S. Department of Justice, The Exploitation of Trafficked Women, by G. Newman (Washington, D.C:
2006) p5.
U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report (Washington, D.C: 2006) p 6.


ƒ Threaten to harm or kill family in the victim’s homeland.
ƒ Use debt and other fines in order to create an insurmountable
“peonage” situation in which the victim must work off a debt or face
punishment. Debts commonly include the initial smuggling fee, charges
for food, housing, clothing, medical expenses or fines for failing to
meet daily quotas.
ƒ Move victims from location to location or trade them from one
establishment to another resulting in a situation where victims may not
know which town or state they are in and are less able to locate
ƒ Create a dependency using tactics of psychological and emotional
abuse in much the same way batterers behave toward their intimate
partner in a dynamic of domestic violence.
ƒ Dictate or restrict movement.
ƒ Isolate victims who do not speak English, as they rely on the trafficker
as a translator and their only source of information.
Victims are taught to mistrust law enforcement by the traffickers, due to
immigration status and the crimes that the individual may have been forced to
commit. With the creation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000,
victims of human trafficking are protected, rather than punished, for the
crimes that they were forced into.
4. Identify Theft Crimes/Fraudulent Identification Scams
"Secure identification should begin in the United States. The federal
government should set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and
sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses. Fraud in identification
documents is no longer just a problem of theft. At many entry points to
vulnerable facilities, including gates for boarding aircraft, sources of
identification are the last opportunity to ensure that people are who they say
they are, and to check whether they are terrorists."
-- 9/11 Commission
In 2001, the then-Immigration and Naturalization Service reported over
100,000 fraudulent passports, visas, alien registration cards and entry
permits. According to ICE leadership, illegal aliens are buying genuine
documents with real identities, stolen from unwitting victims. The proliferation
of fraudulent identification, and resulting identity theft and/or crime, poses a
significant challenge to our national and hometown security.


Identity crime results from crimes committed utilizing personal identifiers that
have been stolen, compromised, altered or are synthetic (not based on an
actual person’s identity) and ensue from the initial theft of an identity.
According to the Better Business Bureau, approximately 9 million people in
the United States were victims of identify crime in 2005. Compounding this
already complex issue, barely one-third of identity crime victims contacted
police. Identity crime can facilitate larger criminal enterprises including
terrorist, drug, gangs and other criminal activity as reported by the Federal
Trade Commission.
While these policy issues are national in scope, local law enforcement is
faced with the unenviable task of investigating and assisting the victims of
these very complex crimes. Many of the perpetrators and/or victims are
Many of the ‘purposes’ for identity crime (The Police Chief, February 2005)
are relevant to illegal immigration. Among the victims surveyed:
ƒ 11% state identifying information was used to obtain employment.
ƒ 8% report government benefits or forged or obtained government
documents were acquired in the victim’s name.
ƒ 2% report a driver's license was obtained using the victim’s name.
Additional information on identity crimes can be found within the IACP’s
Identity Crime Project, co-sponsored by the Bank of America, at

1. Gangs
“The most dangerous gang in America,” a recent Newsweek magazine
headline proclaimed about the gang identified as Mara Salvatrucha or “MS13,” believed to be active in at least 33 U.S. cities and growing. MS-13 is
considered the fastest growing, most violent and least understood of the
gangs known in the states.
The MS-13 gang initially began in the 1980s in Los Angeles, CA, by natives
from El Salvador fleeing that country’s civil war. These immigrants (mostly
illegal) banded together against other gangs who preyed on them. MS-13 is
estimated now to have between 8,000 and 10,000 members across the
United States with tens of thousands living in Central America. The MS-13
members are notorious for vicious attacks, extortion, car thefts and drug and


human trafficking. They are believed to be the major supplier of illegal drugs
out of Mexico.
Authorities have conceded that with major resources focused on the war on
terror, gangs like MS-13 have been able to gain stronger footholds in illegal
activities in communities across the United States. Latin community activists
have expressed a strong desire to rid their communities of these dangerous
gangs. They admit to living in constant fear of retribution and reprisal if they
report any issues to the local police. It is important to note that gang behavior
is not reflective of the immigrant communities that gang members emigrate
from. In fact, only a very small percentage of immigrants are actually involved
with gangs, even remotely.
Law enforcement officials have been unable to identify a clearly defined
hierarchy or structure within MS-13. However, recent evidence has surfaced
that MS-13 is seeking to create a national command structure similar to the
command structure in El Salvador, where the gang is reputed to be highly
organized and disciplined. Reportedly, in the United States, east coast
members of MS-13 may be heavily involved in vicious gang-on-gang attacks,
car thefts and drug trafficking; however, west coast members are more
involved in drug and human trafficking.9
Gang culture and assimilation are not limited to MS-13. Other Latino gangs
and Asian gangs have grown dramatically over the last few years.
Membership tends to center on males between the ages of 14–25 who have
most likely dropped out of school. Recent evidence has shown a trend
towards young females being inducted into gang culture.
Within the Asian communities, gangs are very well organized and highly
feared. Asian gangs are allegedly involved with robberies, burglaries,
extortion, kidnapping, drug trafficking, aggravated assaults, gun running, auto
theft/chop shops and vandalism.
Both Asian and Latino communities suffer with a large number of incidents of
robberies and extortion because of the general distrust of banking and
government institutions, including police. Immigrants tend to have and carry
large sums of cash and valuables making them vulnerable to crime and
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently formed a new national task
force with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and ICE to combat the
escalating growth of criminal activities by gangs such as MS-13. The task
force will serve as a national repository for MS-13 intelligence gathering. The
task force is exchanging intelligence information with their counterparts in

“MS-13.” Newsweek.2007.Newsweek National News, 28 March 2007.


Central America in an effort to mount an international attack against the gang.
However, officials of the task force have stated that no single law
enforcement action is really going to be able to dismantle gangs. In fact, they
admit that any successful program is going to require the assistance of state
and local police agencies cooperating with each other and working within the
communities in which the activities are taking place.
Law enforcement officials must fully understand and address gang crime, and
in particular be aware of the impact on gang membership when immigration
trends change in their communities.


Achieving a successful local law enforcement response to immigration issues is
not easy. Immigration issues, as detailed in this report, are complex in nature and
difficult to address. Further, positions on these issues vary radically among
citizens, governing body leaders and even law enforcement agencies
The IACP does not, through publication of this document, intend to direct a
course of action for state, tribal or local law enforcement agencies. The intent of
this publication has been to define and discuss each major area of immigration
for the benefit of local law enforcement leaders so they can craft informed and
rational local immigration approaches.
Immigration patterns and projected growth throughout the United States will
cause the issue of immigration to be one of continuing importance to all local law
enforcement agencies. The IACP believes that agencies armed with solid,
reliable information on the complex set of immigration issues can surely arrive at
just and effective local policies to respond to these issues in their respective
The IACP’s overarching concern in writing this guide is the pressure that
immigration issues place on local law enforcement. This national issue is really a
very local one, and local police leaders face a growing set of immigration related duties in the face of scarce and narrowing resources. It is critically
important for local agencies to avoid being caught in the middle of endless
battles over immigration policy. Rather, we hope local law enforcement leaders
will use this report to craft reasonable approaches that can be accomplished in
collaboration with governing bodies and community residents.


Legal Update on Immigration Law
This is a summary of a very complex area of the law and is not intended as an exhaustive
analysis. State and local law enforcement executives are cautioned to seek legal advice
interpreting their authority as it exists in their jurisdiction.
A. Federal Law
1. State and local officers may have inherent authority under federal law to enforce
criminal immigration violations, if they are authorized by local law to make arrests for
federal crimes.
There is no overall consensus among legal authorities regarding the role that state and local law
enforcement should perform in immigration enforcement. In the last decade, the United States
Department of Justice Office of Legal Council has taken two opposing positions on the issue
(compare, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel memorandum issued February
6, 1996 published and available at with the U.S.
Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel memorandum issued in April, 2002, unpublished
and available in redacted form at The 1996 opinion holds
“subject to the provisions of state law, state and local police may constitutionally detain or arrest
aliens who have violated the criminal provisions of the Immigration and Naturalization Act
("INA").” On the other hand, the 2002 opinion holds that “[s]tates have inherent power, subject to
federal preemption, to make arrests for violations of federal law.”
Only two of the United States Circuit Courts of Appeal have directly addressed the issue. One,
the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, has taken a position consistent with the OLC’s 1996 opinion,
and has held that state and local officers are authorized, if authorized by state and local law, to
make arrests for violations of immigration laws that are criminal offenses, but have no authority to
arrest for any violations which are civil in nature. Gonzales v. City of Peoria, 722 F.2d 468 (9th
CA, 1983), overruled in part on other grounds, Hodgers-Durgin v. De La Vina, 199 F.3d 1037 (9th
Cir. 1999). The other, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, has held that state and local officers have
inherent authority to enforce immigration laws, whether the violations in question are criminal or
civil in nature. See, e.g. and U.S. v. Santana-Garcia, 264 F.3d 1188, 1194 (10th CA, 2001) and
U.S. v. Salinas Calderon, 728 F.2d 1298 (10th CA, 1984) for a sampling of judicial discussions of
the issue.
That the legal issues remain unresolved is perhaps most clearly demonstrated by recent
proposals in Congress such as the CLEAR Act (H.R. 3137) and the Homeland Security
Enhancement Act (S. 1362) introduced in 2005, which attempted to specifically authorize state
and local enforcement efforts. These proposals would have mandated that states authorize their
officers to enforce immigration law or lose federal funds. The proposals were not adopted. A
new Congress is in place, but to date, no specific “CLEAR Act” type of authorization or mandate
has been enacted.
Many legal authorities believe state and local police who are authorized by local law to do so can
enforce the criminal immigration laws. However, there are some who maintain state and local
officers must be specifically authorized by Congress to do so. The question of state and local law
enforcement’s authority to enforce the civil provisions of immigration law is under greater debate
and remains generally unresolved. Agencies that find they have the authority to enforce criminal
immigration laws may nevertheless find they lack authority to enforce the civil immigration


provisions. Any state or local effort to enforce any aspect of immigration law should be prepared
to address challenges for those claiming that there is no federal or local authorization to do so.
2. There is no general agreement as to whether state and local law enforcement officers
who have the authority under local law to do so may make arrests for federal civil offenses
of the Immigration and Naturalization Act.
As noted above, the legal authorities are split on this issue. Relying upon the 2002 OLC memo,
Attorney General John Ashcroft wrote in a 2003 letter to William Casey, Deputy Superintendent,
Boston Police Department, that the inherent authority for state and local officers to arrest aliens
extended to “…aliens whose names have been entered into the NCIC database that have both
(1) violated civil provisions of the federal immigration laws that render them deportable and (2)
been determined by federal immigration authorities to pose special risks, either because they
present national security concerns or because they are absconders who have not complied with
final orders of removal or deportation.” The position stated in the 2002 OLC memo and
Ashcroft’s letter remains the position of federal authorities, but it is not accepted by all. In
particular, advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who are inclined to
aggressively challenge local immigration law enforcement efforts reject the legal analysis in the
OLC memo. The ACLU criticizes the DOJ position, noting it reverses previous policies and
conclusions of the Department of Justice, including an opinion issued by the Office of Legal
Counsel in 1996. The ACLU argues that Congress has specifically authorized certain types of
local immigration enforcement efforts, and that these specific authorizations would not be needed
if there is a general “inherent” authority. The ACLU notes that the OLC analysis relies heavily on
a prohibition-era case not addressing immigration but instead involving whether a state trooper
had authority to arrest for a federal prohibition misdemeanor11 and asserts the case has limited
applicability to immigration considerations.12
3. Federal law does not mandate state or local law immigration enforcement efforts:
Regardless of whether one believes state or local law enforcement agencies do or do not
possess inherent authority to enforce immigration law, there is no federal requirement to do so.
Ultimately, the extent to which state or local law enforcement officers will or will not enforce
federal immigration provisions remains a local policy and political decision.
4. State and local law must be taken into account on any state or local effort to enforce to
immigration law:
Arrests by state peace officers for federal violations are “…to be determined by reference to state
law.” Miller v. U.S., 357 U.S. 301, 305 (1958). The authority under various state laws to enforce
immigration laws may not be clear-cut. Some states may limit such authority in the manner in
which they define “felony” or “misdemeanor” as referring to state violations or violations of other
jurisdictions that are “equivalent” violations. Since states have no “immigration violations,” there
may be no state “equivalent violation” of a federal immigration violation. While some states may
explicitly authorize immigration enforcement, other states may specifically restrict it. Some
jurisdictions may be prohibited from engaging in immigration enforcement by reason of a consent
decree, injunction, or local ordinance “sanctuary” prohibitions.
Even if agency administrators accept the proposition that state and local officers have “inherent
authority” to enforce immigration law, they must still determine whether under applicable state


Letter of Attorney General John Ashcroft to William Casey, Chair, Criminal Justice Information Services Advisory
Policy Board, dated May 13, 2003 at page two.
Marsh v. U.S., 29 F.2d 172 (2nd CA, 1928).
The ACLU has issued a memo summarizing its criticisms of the OLC memo, which is available at the ACLU’s web


and local law their own officers have actual authority to do so. Just because federal law may
permit such enforcement does not mean state and local officers have authority in their jurisdiction
to engage in such enforcement. The laws across the nation are not uniform and care should be
taken not to engage in actions simply because officers in another jurisdiction have done so.
Further, even among those who accept the proposition that state and local officers have “inherent
authority” to take enforcement actions against criminal immigration law violators, there is great
concern about taking enforcement action against those who have only violated the civil
immigration provisions. Most state statutes granting officers the ability to make arrests are
couched in terms of criminal law violations. However, many immigration violations are civil in
nature. While federal officers are specifically empowered to take civil immigration violators into
custody, state and local officers may not have corresponding authority at the state or local level.13
While the position of the Department of Justice is that the “inherent authority” extends to civil
immigration violators, unless a local officer’s jurisdiction provides clear authority to take people in
custody for a non-criminal (civil) violation, such actions by officers may be illegal notwithstanding
the fact that they could make criminal arrests.14
5. Many immigration violations are not criminal.
Civil violations of immigration laws include being illegally present in the United States, failure to
depart after expiration of a visa or a grant of voluntary departure, and some violations related to
stowaways. Some criminal violations include illegally reentering the United States, alien
smuggling, and “willfully” disobeying an order of removal. Determining what type of offense, if
any, is encountered requires careful analysis and an understanding of the complex immigration
provisions. State and local officers must not assume that every immigration violation is a crime.
6. NCIC entries contain both civil and criminal immigration violators. Officers should be
careful to determine the nature of the underlying offense resulting in the NCIC entry.
Until August, 2003, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database immigration entries
included only persons who had been deported from the United States. When officers “ran” a
person, they would only discover if he or she had committed the specific felony of re-entry after
deportation.15 Since August, 2003, civil immigration information has been added to the NCIC.
For example, the federal “Alien Absconder Initiative” lists absconders—those who have defied a
final order of removal or deportation—in the NCIC system. However, “absconders” may be civil
or criminal violators. In general, those who can be proven to be “willful” absconders are criminal
violators, while those for whom the government cannot establish “willfulness” are civil violators.
The larger number of “absconders” are civil violators.16 Both are listed in NCIC. As noted, the
authority for state or local officers to take civil violators into custody is questionable. That is why
every immigration pickup request noted in NCIC is predicated by some modifier such as “if
authorized by local law.” An entry into NCIC does not guarantee the state or local officer has
See, e.g. New York Attorney General Informal Opinion 2000-1 that opines that New York law enforcement officials
may make warrantless arrests for criminal immigration violations, but a reasonable belief of a civil immigration
violation does not provide a basis for arrest.
14 14
Some immigration law scholars, such as Kris W. Kobach, Former Counsel to the Attorney General, suggest
Congress has never sought to preempt the states’ “inherent authority to make immigration arrests for both criminal and
civil violations…” but this addresses only the federal half of the equation. State and local officers must have specific
authority under their local law to do so. Congress has not specifically provided state and local officers such civil arrest
authority under a grant of federal authority that would supplement the absence of any state or local authority. To
review Ms. Kobach’s position, see, e.g. “Testimony of Kris W. Kobach” before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary
on 4/22/2004.
“Forcing Our Blues Into Gray Areas: Local Police and Federal Immigration Enforcement-A Legal Guide For
Advocates” a report by Appleseed, Nebraska Appleseed, New Jersey Appleseed, Texas Appleseed, and Washington
Anecdotal information from federal authorities suggests that civil absconders constitute 90-95% of the absconders
being entered into NCIC.


actual authority to take the person into custody. In addition, an officer’s reliance upon a NCIC
entry will not “cover” an illegal arrest on a civil violation if the officer has no civil arrest authority.
7. A federal immigration “warrant” may be an administratively-issued document.
Officers are trained that they can take people into custody when they confirm a “warrant” for the
person’s arrest has been issued. However, the “warrant” in immigration matters is not necessarily
the “warrant” officers normally encounter. Civil absconders have not committed a criminal
offense. An administrative document, referred to as a “warrant” is issued to authorize taking the
civil absconder into custody. However, the “warrant” is not issued by a detached and neutral
magistrate and does not comply with the traditional Fourth Amendment requisites for warrants.
Most state statutes authorize officers to take a person into custody upon confirmation that a
“warrant” for the person is outstanding in either the state or in another jurisdiction. However, it is
unlikely that the administrative “warrant” authorizing taking civil absconders into custody is the
type of “warrant” contemplated by state statutes. Before taking a person into custody solely on
the basis of an NCIC entry suggesting some sort of immigration “warrant” is outstanding, officers
should verify whether the warrant has been issued for a criminal or civil violation. Even if state
law authorizes taking a person into custody for a criminal violation, it is possible—even likely—
that state law does not authorize taking a person into custody for a civil immigration violation.
8. The power to detain is ultimately derived from the authority to arrest. What constitutes
“probable cause” in immigration matters may not be easy to discern.
The purpose of a reasonable suspicion-based detention is to determine whether probable cause
to arrest can be developed. If an officer has no ultimate authority to arrest the person for an
immigration violation, then what basis does he or she have to detain the person for the purpose of
discerning whether an immigration violation has occurred? State and local officers who clearly
have authority to arrest for federal criminal immigration violations have authority to detain persons
upon reasonable suspicion; those who do not have immigration arrest authority have
questionable authority to detain persons even upon the reasonable suspicion that an immigration
violation has occurred.
Even for officers having clear criminal immigration arrest authority, arrest authority may not
extend to civil immigration violators. These officers likely have no authority to detain a person
solely on suspicion of a civil immigration violation.
For officers with arrest authority, determining whether an immigration offense has occurred may
be difficult. Immigration law is complex. For example, under 8 USC Section 1325, making an
illegal entry into the United States is a misdemeanor absent evidence of a prior illegal entry.
However, at least one federal court has indicated that lack of documentation and even an
admission of illegal entry may not provide probable cause. Under many state laws, officers can
make warrant less arrests for misdemeanors only if committed in the officers’ presence.
However, some courts have held that an “illegal entry” is not a continuing offense, meaning that
unless an officer views the entry or encounters the person very soon after that entry, it probably is
not a misdemeanor committed in the officer’s presence.
While “border searches” are under a relaxed Fourth Amendment criteria for having suspicion
justifying stopping individuals, officers are still required to comply with the applicable law related
to constitutional stops of persons. Concerns about racial profiling remain current any time
persons in an identifiable ethnic group are stopped by law enforcement.
Cities such as Chandler, Arizona and Katy, Texas have been sued when their local officers
became involved in immigration “sweeps” that resulted in United States citizens and legal
immigrants being taken into custody under the belief they were present in the country illegally.
Given the complexity of immigration law, it is likely that state and local officers could make a


mistaken assessment of one’s immigration status, with the predictable lawsuits following on the
heels of the actions.
No agency should authorize its state or local officers to engage in any detention or arrest for
immigration violations until it has satisfied itself that clear local authority to do so exist. Even if
one agrees state and local officers have “inherent authority” to enforce immigration laws, officers
must act within the express grants of authority under state and local law. Those officers
authorized to do so must conform to requirements of Constitutional and other law, and they must
understand clearly what constitutes probable cause to believe a criminal immigration violation has
9. Congress has specifically authorized local enforcement in a few areas:
Regardless of one’s position on whether state and local officers have “inherent authority” and
express local authority to enforce immigration law, there are some specific grants of authority
available to state and local officers.
--The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) specifically
authorizes—to the extent permitted by “relevant State and local law”--arrest by state and local
officers of non-citizens who have committed the federal crime of illegal re-entry and of previouslydeported felons (deported or left country after felony conviction). Arresting officers must confirm
with immigration authorities the subject’s status, and the subject can be held only for such time as
it takes for federal authorities to respond and take the person into custody.
--Title 8, United States Code Section 1324(c) allows “all…officers whose duty it is to
enforce criminal laws” to make arrests for smuggling, transporting, or harboring criminal aliens.
--Title 8, U.S.C. Section 1103(a) (10) allows the U.S. Attorney General to authorize any
State or local law enforcement officer to enforce immigration laws when “an actual or imminent
mass influx of aliens…” is occurring. The federal government has entered into an agreement with
Florida implementing this provision and providing for training of officers who would be called into
service in case of any such declared “influx.”
--Title 8, U.S.C. Section 1357(g) sets forth a procedure for entering into a written
agreement for immigration enforcement by state and local officers who have received specialized
training in immigration law. All such officers work under direction and supervision to some degree
of federal immigration officers. Those involved in such agreements include the Florida
Department of Law Enforcement, the State of Alabama, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s
Department, the Arizona Department of Corrections, and numerous other sheriffs departments.
The main focus of many of the recent agreements is on training those involved in the booking
process at jails or prisons on how to evaluate prisoners’ immigration status, with detainers being
lodged to assure the prisoners are taken into federal custody when their state or local detention
time expires.
10. The U.S. Supreme Court has recently indicated state and local officers may question
criminal suspects and detainees about their immigration status.
In Muehler v. Mena, 125 S.Ct. 1465 (3/22/2005), the Supreme Court found that questioning
regarding the immigration of Mena (who was in handcuffs for several hours during a search of the
premises where she resided) during her detention did not violate the Fourth Amendment. The
Court indicated, “… (t)he officers did not need reasonable suspicion to ask Mena for her name,
date and place of birth, or immigration status.” This case should not be interpreted as allowing
the random questioning of persons regarding their immigration status. Mena was lawfully
detained on other matters when the questioning occurred. She was not independently “seized”
solely to allow the immigration questioning.


11. State and local officers retain the ability to enforce state law violations even if their
ability to enforce federal immigration law is restricted or non-existent. Referrals to federal
authorities of suspicions may occur.
Nothing in this review of federal law diminishes the underlying authority of state and local officers
to enforce their own jurisdiction’s criminal laws. Even if a state or local officer has no authority to
arrest for immigration violations, if an independent state violation has occurred, the officer can
make an arrest based on state law. If questioning during a detention or arrest based on state or
local law violations uncovers suspected immigration violations, the state or local officer can
contact federal officers and relay the concerns. Federal officers may respond and, if immigration
violations are confirmed, take appropriate federal action.
Conclusion regarding federal law:
--State and local officers have the authority under federal law to enforce criminal immigration
violations, if they are authorized by local law to make arrests for federal crimes;
--State and local officers may have authority under federal law to enforce civil immigration
violations, but there is less support for this proposition than with regard to enforcing criminal
immigration violations;
--Federal law does not mandate state and local law enforcement of immigration law. It remains a
local policy and political decision.
--State and local law may not grant officers immigration arrest authority. Legal analysis under
applicable local law should be done before engaging in any enforcement action. There is no
national “rule” or standard. Local law will define and prevail.
--Ultimately, the power to detain is based on the power to arrest.
--NCIC “hits” may be indicating civil violations for which no local arrest authority is provided.
--Immigration “warrants” may be administrative (civil) rather than the traditional Fourth
Amendment criminal warrant issued upon probable cause by a detached and neutral magistrate.
Reliance upon verification of a “warrant” in NCIC for an immigration offense may not provide a
basis for detention or arrest for a criminal violation.
--During the course of an otherwise legitimate detention, officers may inquire about the detainee’s
immigration status.
--Detention or arrest upon suspected state violations remain options for state and local officers. If
immigration violations are developed during the course of an independent state or local law
detention or arrest, federal authorities can be contacted so that they can take appropriate federal
intervention steps.

B. Local Restrictions on Immigration Enforcement
1. Federal law prohibits state and local laws from restricting the sharing of immigration
status information with federal authorities.
On August 22, 1996, the President signed the Welfare Reform Act into law. Section 434, entitled
“Communication between State and Local Government Agencies and the Immigration and
Naturalization Service,” provides that no state or local government entity may be restricted from
exchanging information with the INS regarding the immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of an
alien in the United States. The Conference Report accompanying the bill explained: “The
conferees intend to give State and local officials the authority to communicate with the INS
regarding the presence, whereabouts, or activities of illegal aliens.... The conferees believe that
immigration law enforcement is as high a priority as other aspects of Federal law enforcement,


and that illegal aliens do not have the right to remain in the United States undetected and
On September 30, 1996, the Immigration Reform Act was signed into law. Section 642, entitled
“Communication between Government Agencies and the Immigration and the Naturalization
Service,” expands Section 434 (above) by prohibiting any government entity or official from
restricting any other government entity or official from exchanging information with the INS about
the immigration or citizenship status of any individual. It further provides that no governmental
agency-federal, state, or local-may be prohibited from: (i) exchanging such information with the
INS; (ii) maintaining such information; or (iii) exchanging such information with any other federal,
state, or local government entity. The Report of the Senate Judiciary Committee accompanying
the Senate Bill explained that the “acquisition, maintenance, and exchange of immigration-related
information by State and local agencies is consistent with, and potentially of considerable
assistance to, the Federal regulation of immigration and the achieving of the purposes and
objectives of the Immigration and Nationality Act.”18
The City of New York challenged both laws as being in violation of the Tenth Amendment on the
general principle that the federal government cannot directly compel states to perform duties. In
City of New York v. U.S., 179 F.3d 29 (2nd CA, 1999), the Court ruled that in the case of Sections
434 and 642, Congress had not compelled state and local governments to enact or administer
any federal regulatory program. Nor had it affirmatively conscripted states, localities, or their
employees into the federal government's service. The Court found that the New York City
executive order was improper in that it prevented voluntary disclosure of immigration information
by city employees unless special conditions were met. The city failed to establish a basis for
compelling passive resistance to the federal immigration enforcement efforts. The U.S. Supreme
Court denied a petition for cert (review) of the 2nd Court of Appeals’ decision, thereby letting the
opinion stand.
2. Locally adopted sanctuary policies are widespread.
Notwithstanding these federal provisions, throughout the nation, states and local governments
have imposed and maintained policies that prohibit their employees from seeking information
regarding immigration status. These sanctuary policies effectively prevent a person’s citizenship
status from becoming known during local law enforcement efforts. Some of these policies are
arguably in violation of the federal provisions discussed above. Communities implementing such
policies believe they promote the free exchange of important information between members of
the community who are not in the country legally and local law enforcement, health, education,
and other social service representatives. They fear that if it was known that a person’s illegal
immigration status would be passed by local authorities to federal immigration officials, that
person would not cooperate with local information-gathering efforts such as obtaining witness
statements, securing the cooperation of victims, and similar tasks involving the person.
For example, in Los Angeles, Special Order 40 prohibits officers from questioning or
apprehending someone only for an immigration violation or from notifying the immigration service
(now known as Immigration and Customs Enforcement) about a person who is in the country
illegally. Only if the person has been booked for a non-immigration felony or multiple
misdemeanors may officers even inquire about immigration status.
According to a 2004 Congressional report, Alaska and Oregon prohibit or restrict state and local
officers’ involvement in federal immigration enforcement and 31 cities or counties had sanctuary


H.R. Conf. Rep. No. 104-725, at 383 (1996).
S.Rep. No. 104-249, at 19-20 (1996).
Los Angeles Times, “Sanctuary Laws Stand In Justice’s Way” (1/19/2004).


policies.20 Oregon's sanctuary law says "no law enforcement agency ... of the state of Oregon or
any political subdivision of the state shall use agency moneys, equipment or personnel for the
purpose of detecting or apprehending persons whose only violation is that they are in the United
States in violation of federal laws." Since 2004, other states and communities have enacted
various sanctuary provisions and policies.
Some communities’ sanctuary policies are very broad, such as the one renewed in 2006 in
Cambridge, Massachusetts that called for a moratorium on immigration raids by federal
authorities pending comprehensive reform, affirmed the human rights of undocumented
immigrants, and condemned legislation passed by the US House in December, 2005 that would
crack down on illegal immigration.
3. Some negative response to sanctuary policies has occurred.
In some communities, there has been a backlash to sanctuary policies including enactment of at
least one state law prohibiting sanctuary policies. In May, 2006, a Colorado law became effective
prohibiting Colorado communities from declaring themselves as sanctuaries. It enforces the ban
by prohibiting the administration of grants by the Department of Local Affairs to any community
with such a ban. The Colorado law also requires police to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement if a person arrested for a crime is a suspected illegal immigrant. It requires cities
and counties to notify local law enforcement officers in writing of their obligation to comply with
the law. The law does not apply to those arrested for minor traffic infractions or for suspicion of
domestic violence. It does require notification if the suspect is convicted of domestic violence.
Cities and counties must file an annual report regarding how many illegal aliens they report to
immigration officials. Failure to report suspected illegal aliens also makes the city or county
ineligible for state grants.
4. Sanctuary policies are likely to continue until national immigration reform occurs.
Congressional efforts to strengthen sanctions against communities with sanctuary policies have
failed to produce legislation. Despite the fact that some sanctuary policies are likely forbidden by
federal law, they remain popular in many communities and are unlikely to be abandoned
voluntarily. The end of sanctuary cities is not in sight and until Congress enacts substantial
immigration reform there is no clear signal from the federal government as to what its posture on
such policies will be. Law enforcement executives must operate within the policies established by
state or local governing bodies, and may have to deal with these policies even though they run
afoul of federal law and policy.
C. Determining the difference between legal immigrants and illegal immigrants is complex
and carries with it significant responsibilities.
1. Determining immigration status is not an easy task.
Local and state law enforcement officers called upon to enforce immigration law face a very
complex task. Immigration law is very detailed and complex, with both criminal and civil
sanctions, and with one’s immigration status not always being easily ascertained. Immigration
documents are unusual, and are often counterfeited. One can enter the United States legally,
and then by reason of not conforming to visa requirements, or over-staying an authorized visit,
become an illegal immigrant. If federal immigration reform includes any form of “amnesty” or
“forgiveness” for illegal aliens, determining one’s current immigration status will become even


Congressional Research Service Report, “Enforcing Immigration Law: The Role of State and Local Law
Enforcement.” (3/11/2004).


more complex. Specialized training is required to equip state and local officers with the basic
ability to determine whether persons they have encountered are legal or illegal immigrants.
2. Effective training will likely be lengthy, requiring extraordinary commitment of
agency resources.
When the Florida Department of Law Enforcement implemented the nation’s first agreement
allowing state and local officers to enforce federal immigration provisions (under 8 USC
§1357(g)), the state and local officers received six weeks of intense immigration training and were
required to successfully complete a major examination testing their comprehension of what they
had been trained. Participants in the Florida training characterized immigration law as “more
complex than tax law” and indicated the training was as tough as any training the officers had
received in their various law enforcement careers. The State of Alabama required similar
intensive training of its troopers before they received authorization to enforce immigration law
under that state’s agreement.
Immigration law does not lend itself to short “roll call” training videos or short-term orientation
training. Officers simply cannot comprehend the complex immigration categories, legal
provisions and sanctions without intensive training. If officers are to become involved in
immigration enforcement, law enforcement administrators must accept the fact that significant
time and effort in training—lasting weeks rather than hours or days—will likely be required to
assure their officers are equipped with the basics to perform the task assigned to them. Even if
the focus of local or state officers is the “booking function,” lengthy specialized training regarding
how to identify and validate immigration documents will be required.
3. Failure to train effectively carries significant ramifications.
Failure to comprehend immigration law can result in mistakes being made by officers attempting
to enforce immigration provisions. These types of mistakes easily can damage the public’s
perception of law enforcement efforts. Since the mistakes usually mean that persons who are
either U.S. citizens or are legal immigrants are subjected to some sort of enforcement action such
as detention or arrest, the mistakes will almost always result in lawsuits. The prospect of
damages because of negligent training, or the deprivation of civil rights under the color of state
law should be enough to give all responsible law enforcement administrators motivation to assure
that if immigration enforcement efforts are to be done, the agency’s officers are completely and
appropriately trained.
4. All agencies must conform with “consular notification” obligations whenever any
foreign national is detained or arrested—even if agency officers are not engaged in
immigration enforcement.
As a final note, all agencies are reminded that under national law, when a foreign national is
detained or arrested—whether under state law or while enforcing immigration provisions—the
agency taking such action must determine whether consular notification is mandated or made
available to the detained or arrested foreign national as an option. For more information on this
obligation that applies to all state and local agencies, consult the U.S. Department of State’s web
site at:


VIIII. Bibliography and Resources
Web Site

IACP Publications

Other Publications

Enforcing Immigration
Law: The Role of State,
Tribal and Local Law

GAO, Report to Congress:
Immigration Enforcement
Weaknesses Hinder
Employment Verification
and Worksite Enforcement
Efforts, August 2005


U.S. Census Bureau

US News and World

Judicial Watch

The Crime of Human
Trafficking: A Law
Enforcement Guide to
Identification and

CRS, Report for Congress
Immigration Legislation
Issues in the 109th
Congress, October 17,

New York Times

The Washington Post

Minuteman Project

CRS, Report for Congress
Immigration within the
U.S.:April 6, 2006
Department of Justice
The Exploitation of
Trafficked Women, 2006


DOJ Office of Violence
against Women

National Network to
End Violence against
Immigrant Women

Department of State
Trafficking in Persons,
Major City Chiefs
Immigration Committee
Vera Institute of Justice
Overcoming Language
Barriers: Solutions for
Law Enforcement, 2007

Battered Women’s
Justice Project

Family Violence
Prevention Fund


IACP Project Response Staff
Joseph C. Carter
Daniel N. Rosenblatt
James M. McMahon

Executive Director
Deputy Executive Director

Project Response Team
John Firman
Project Response Co-Chair
Gene Voegtlin
Project Response Co-Chair
Lt Wendy Clark
Project Response Coordinator/Contributing Author
United States Capitol Police
Charlie Higginbotham
Paul Santiago
Nancy Turner
Contributing Writers
Elaine Deck
Jack Grant
Susy Jordan
Michael Ramage
Vincent Talucci
Lindsay Waldrop
Maria Wagner
Committee Review
Chief Charles Gruber
Chief Ronal Serpas
Professor Charles Wellford
Editorial Staff
Wendy Balazik
Katerina Karakehagia
Margaret White


Professional Standards Committee, Chair
Research Advisory Committee, Co-Chair
Research Advisory Committee, Co-Chair

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) stands ready to support and assist all law
enforcement agencies in addressing problems and issues arising around the world. Through our
network of communications, information, and distribution, we recognize our responsibility to serve our
members who face difficult decisions now and in the future. The strength we enjoy is the result of
committed members working together for the good of all law enforcement throughout the world.
For more information on the various services and products IACP provides its members, please visit
our website (, contact us at, or write to:

The International Association of Chiefs of Police
515 North Washington Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
703-836-6767; 1-800-THEIACP




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