Fourth part of our ten part series examining the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s (AILA) publication of “What to Watch Out for in Immigration in 2011.”
Topic #4: State and Local Authority to Enforce Immigration Law
The role state and local officials should play when enforcing immigration laws has been a heavily debated issue especially since the passing of Arizona’s SB 1070 law.
Allowing each state to determine its own border and immigration laws would create chaos and conflict among bordering states with differing opinions and it would make the laws very hard to enforce. This is why AILA believes immigration law should remain a federal issue, however countless laws are passed each year by states on immigration and border control which affect housing, public benefits, employment, education and even public health.
Many of the laws states have tried to pass related to immigration policy have been repealed by the federal government such as parts of Arizona’s SB 1070. Because of the insistence by many states to pass their own immigration laws, lawmakers have pushed to pass legislation that would make it clear who has authority on immigration matters. One such piece of legislation is the CLEAR Act, which if passed would allow state and local authorities to enforce immigration laws.
Opponents of the CLEAR Act fear that if local agencies begin enforcing immigration matters, those in immigrant communities will be less likely to talk to authorities, report crimes and be willing to cooperate with the police. It will additionally lead to an increased fear of deportation. State and local police officials also oppose laws like the CLEAR Act as well because it would prohibit them from protecting the public if they had to become “deportation agents.” State and local officials currently don’t have the knowledge or resources to enforce the immigration laws and asking them to do so would create an overwhelming amount of pressure and responsibility. Secure Communities, the Criminal Alien Program and the 287(g) program are federal programs already in place that rely on local law enforcement to arrest and provide information about potential illegal immigrants. Although many are concerned that these programs diminish trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement, AILA believes it’s likely we will see a push to expand and create new programs in 2011.
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