Enforcing Immigration Law: The Role of State and Local Law Enforcement [Updated August 30, 2007] [open pdf - 208KB]
"Congress defined our nation's immigration laws in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which contains both criminal and civil enforcement measures. Historically, the authority for state and local law enforcement officials to enforce immigration law has been construed to be limited to the criminal provisions of the INA; by contrast, the enforcement of the civil provisions, which includes apprehension and removal of deportable aliens, has strictly been viewed as a federal responsibility, with states playing an incidental supporting role. The legislative proposals that have been introduced, however, would appear to expand the role of state and local law enforcement agencies in the civil enforcement aspects of the INA. Congress, through various amendments to the INA, has gradually broadened the authority for state and local law enforcement officials to enforce immigration law, and some recent statutes have begun to carve out possible state roles in the enforcement of civil matters. Indeed, several jurisdictions have signed agreements (INA §287(g)) with the federal government to allow their respective state and local law enforcement agencies to perform new, limited duties relating to immigration law enforcement. Still, the enforcement of immigration laws by state and local officials has sparked debate among many who question what the proper role of state and local law enforcement officials should be in enforcing such laws. For example, many have expressed concern over proper training, finite resources at the local level, possible civil rights violations, and the overall impact on communities. Some communities have taken steps to define or limit the involvement of local authorities in the implementation of immigration law."
CRS Report for Congress, RL32270