Enforcing Immigration Law: The Role of State and Local Law Enforcement [Updated October 13, 2005]   [open pdf - 156KB]

"Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the enforcement of our nation's immigration laws has received a significant amount of attention. Some observers contend that the federal government does not have adequate resources to enforce immigration law and that state and local law enforcement entities should be utilized. Several proposals introduced in the 109th Congress would enhance the role of state and local officials in the enforcement of immigration law, including the Save America Comprehensive Immigration Act of 2005 (H.R. 2092); Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal Act of 2005 (H.R. 3137); Homeland Security Enhancement Act of 2005 (S. 1362); Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act of 2005; Rewarding Employers that Abide by the Law and Guaranteeing Uniform Enforcement to Stop Terrorism Act of 2005 (H.R. 3333); Scott Gardner Act (H.R. 3776); and the Enforcement First Immigration Reform Act of 2005 (H.R. 3938). This proposed shift has prompted many to question what role state and local law enforcement agencies should have in the enforcement of immigration law, if any. Congress defined our nation's immigration laws in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) (8 U.S.C. §§1101 et seq.), 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."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL32270
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