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ImmigrationProblems associated with enlisting local police for immigration enforcement

Published 22 March 2017

As a candidate and now as president, Donald Trump has described undocumented immigrants as a threat to public safety and has promised to create a “deportation force” to remove millions of immigrants from the country. Through his words and actions, President Trump has indicated that he aims to enlist state and local law enforcement in this deportation force through both inducement and coercion, by aggressively promoting the 287(g) program and threatening to cut federal funding of so-called sanctuary jurisdictions. Law enforcement personnel already face enormous challenges with limited resources. In the coming months, many state and local officials and local law enforcement agencies will face a choice: whether and how to assume a greater role in enforcing federal immigration laws.

As a candidate and now as president, Donald Trump has described undocumented immigrants as a threat to public safety and has promised to create a “deportation force” to remove millions of immigrants from the country. Through his words and actions, President Trump has indicated that he aims to enlist state and local law enforcement in this deportation force through both inducement and coercion, by aggressively promoting the 287(g) program and threatening to cut federal funding of so-called sanctuary jurisdictions.

Law enforcement personnel already face enormous challenges with limited resources. In the coming months, many state and local officials and local law enforcement agencies will face a choice: whether and how to assume a greater role in enforcing federal immigration laws. The Center for American Progress says that a new brief by the Center for American Progress illustrates how exercising that role could lead to significant financial burdens; increased litigation due to racial profiling and unlawful detention; and diminished public trust at the expense of public safety and the general welfare of all members of U.S. communities.

“Law enforcement officers have a difficult job, and gaining and maintaining community trust has never been more important than it is in today’s charged environment,” said Danyelle Solomon, Director of Progress 2050 at CAP and co-author of the brief. “Research shows that the general principles of community policing apply with equal force when looking at effective policing in immigrant communities, and that entangling local policing and immigration enforcement reduces trust and decreases public safety.”

The brief points out that many jurisdictions that have participated in 287(g) programs have found them to be a raw deal and have exposed them to charges of racial profiling and litigation. The brief further notes that hundreds of jurisdictions have adopted sanctuary policies to enhance public safety and avoid court judgements and hefty settlements resulting from unlawful detentions.

“The Trump administration’s efforts to rope local law enforcement into its mass deportation agenda are guided more by its anti-immigrant ideology than by sound public policy,” said Tom Jawetz, Vice President for Immigration Policy at CAP and co-author of the brief. “The nation’s experience with 287(g) task force agreements has not been good and, as our own previously published research shows, sanctuary counties experience less crime and stronger economies. In the opening months of this administration, we have seen that courts adhering to the Constitution have acted as an important check on executive overreach by this administration. But sound decisions made every day by state and local officials and law enforcement executives must act as an additional check.”

— Read more in Danyelle Solomon et al., The Negative Consequences of Entangling Local Policing and Immigration Enforcement (Center for American Progress, 21 March 2017)