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Local, State, Federal Police and the Enforcement of Immigration Policies; Who is Responsible?
According to the Department of Homeland Security Office of Immigration Statistics, 10.8 million undocumented immigrants reside in the United States, but the Pew Hispanic Center (2011) estimated the total number of undocumented immigrants in the United States to be 11.2 million (American Immigration Council, 2011). The U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) employ fewer than 2000 enforcement agents responsible for the apprehension, detention, and deportation of undocumented immigrants present in the U.S. (Tonnucci, 2011). Although there are more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies within the U.S., local and state law enforcement agencies primary mission involves a multitude of public safety duties and responsibilities.
Law enforcement agencies have been operating with limited resources since the national economic downturn that began in 2008. The responsibility for the enforcement of federal immigration laws on the local or state level will overburden local and state responsibilities, redistribute limited personnel to unfamiliar functions, and sever beneficial relationships established in the communities being serviced (Booth, 2006).
The recommendations presented are that law enforcement officials should be able to enforce the immigration laws that are already in place and reform laws that need relevant consequences, so there will be harsher punishments for those who choose to break the law. It will also suggest that if the U.S. chooses to let productive immigrants reside in the U.S., with proper and legal documentation, then they should be afforded educational and training opportunities so they can be successful members of society.
The United States is a nation comprised of citizens with immigrant origins. Everyone, except possibly Native American Indians, can trace their ancestors to some other locale. Within the past two decades, the United States has experienced high increases in immigrant populations moving to all parts of the world, including Asia and Latin America (Khashu, 2009). As of 1990, the immigration population rose from 7.9% to 11.1% in 2000 and to 12.9% in 2013. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2013 that the U.S. was home to nearly 40 million immigrants (American Immigration Council, 2012). America’s acceptance of immigrants has created a diverse population that has witnessed conflict and suspicion toward immigrant groups. The demographic shifts have created national debate on the immigration policies, practices, and enforcement of established laws. Local police departments and state law enforcement agencies are being pressured to share responsibility in the enforcement of the established immigration laws although these federal laws should be the responsibility of the federal government, alone.
With immigration laws being federal statutes, the federal government determines the role of the local and state law enforcement agencies in the enforcement of their laws. Federal agencies began to face daunting tasks surrounding the apprehension, detention, and deportation of nearly twelve million immigrants during the 1990s (Khashu, 2009). The federal government launched programs and initiatives in an effort to enlist the collaboration of approximately 18,000 local and state agencies to assist in the identification and deportation of illegal immigrants (Khashu, 2009). These programs were designed to improve the communication among local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies in the sharing of detainee information. In 1996, Congress passed legislation expanding the role of local law enforcement with regards to federal immigration enforcement. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) 287(g) Immigration and Nationality Act program is the most notable program. The 287(g) Immigration and Nationality Act program is a delegation of immigration authority to local and state law enforcement agencies within their respective jurisdictions allowing the enforcement of immigration laws under a joint Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)(Khashu, 2009).
The issue of illegal immigration is a major problem that plagues our nation. The negative impact that is felt is more financial than any other due to the fact that a large majority of illegal immigrants do not pay their fair share of taxes which leads to a burden on honest, domesticated taxpayers and municipal governments. Because of the lack of funding to local and state agencies, departments have been forced to evaluate and organize with a move toward the concept of being held accountable for more with less. The significance of illegal immigration to law enforcement is the impact of the unaccounted population on staff and budget planning. An example during the budget planning process may include the number of bilingual officers a department needs to recruit and retain. Regardless of the budget implications, there is a growing concern about criminal implications associated with this portion of our population. Because of this, the community policing policy being implemented throughout the United States in law enforcement agencies details the importance of community support and assistance with crime control. Police preventative strategies have proven important in the development of community partnerships through trust and cooperation, community/police collaboration, and the relationships.
Local and state law enforcement agencies sharing the responsibility of the enforcement of immigration laws through immigration enforcement duties and responsibilities elicit the effectiveness of crime control. Police leaders continue to receive pressure as the decision of enforcing federal immigration laws is weighed against local police responsibilities diverting from protection and service to arrest and deportation. Local police enforcing federal immigration laws compromise the vision, mission, and purpose of local law enforcement priorities (Khashu, 2009). As stated, the enforcement of immigration laws should remain the sole responsibility of the federal government. Both legal and illegal immigrants from countries such as Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala have found a home here illegally. These countries do not value the same things as the United States, nor do they guarantee the rights of their citizens. Specifically, some of the mentioned countries, and their citizens, have misogynistic backgrounds, meaning the women are afforded little to no rights, and violence committed against them and their children, is not uncommon (Schurman-Kaulfin, 2006).
In the United States, rape is considered a serious crime punishable as a felony, in the criminal justice system. In some areas of Mexico, rape is not considered a crime. If a man intends to marry a female, he can kidnap and rape her, no matter the age. Ricardo Capates is a serial rapist from Honduras who was convicted in New Jersey. He is an illegal immigrant who has been convicted of more than 20 counts of kidnapping, rape and robbery. Fedil Rodriquez, also from Honduras, is thought to have brought his hatred for women to the United States by savagely stabbing a female to death. Misogyny does not stay in their home country; it often migrates with the immigrant.
If these cases of deviant behavior are not enough, consider looking at issues closer to home such as criminal street gangs. Many illegal immigrants join violent criminal gangs. According to a New American article, “These gangs are highly organized with tentacles spread through several countries.” (para. 5, 2011) Gangs are responsible for all types of crime that include robbery, theft, narcotics, illegal weapons, and murder. Another concern that is presenting itself is how we are dealing with this criminal element once they are caught and processed. The Immigrant Criminal Enforcement (ICE) routinely frees dangerous criminals that they cannot deport because the United States Supreme Court will not allow ICE to imprison an illegal for more than six months simply for the reason that they cannot be deported. Also, many times, ICE cannot deport because the home country is not willing to take them. Between 2001 and 2004, ICE released 27,947 criminal immigrants with 75% of them originating from countries that are known to be active in producing criminal elements (“Colorado’s jails full,”2011). In 2010, 127,000 immigrants from Mexico were removed from the United States because of criminal activity (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2010).
President Donald Trump released his plan to combat illegal immigration with a ten point schematic that starts with building a wall across the southern U.S. border to be paid for by Mexico. To control this border requires manpower, barriers, and technology. Fences are being used as well as unmanned aerial vehicles and high-altitude surveillance drones to fight the influx of illegal crossings by land, sea, and air. Another point is any illegal immigrant caught in the country for committing a crime will be held by way of preventive detention until that person is deported, even though the U.S. Supreme Court states otherwise. The creation of a deportation task force with the sole purpose of locating illegal immigrants who are committing crime or using governmental benefits illegally is another point in the Presidents plan. The use of the Federal Government to discipline cities, also known as sanctuary cities that create laws to protect undocumented aliens, will also be a point of contention.
The cancellation of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy, better known as DACA, is another point of action. Roughly half a million young people brought to the U.S. as children have received temporary legal status. President Trump would also cancel President Obama’s DAPA program or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, which would give similar status to undocumented parents of American citizens. President Trump will block immigration from countries where vetting is not possible such as Syria and Libya. The next point in the immigration policy is the opportunity to force countries to take back the immigrants that the U.S. does not want. The establishment of a biometric visa scanning system to identify immigrants through fingerprint or retinal scan, only when entering the country, is on the agenda. The President would like to strengthen the E-Verify system to disallow illegal immigrants from finding work in this country. The final point that President Trump would like to implement is the lowering of the legal immigrant cap to respectable norms. A small percentage of the U.S. total population would be allowed for legal, documented immigrants.
There are significant costs imposed on the citizens of the United States by the imposition of illegal immigrants. These costs are prevalent on many governmental levels and range from education to welfare to medical care to criminal justice and beyond (Edwards, 2010). The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) showed that illegal immigrants’ cost the taxpayers of the U.S. around $113 billion yearly. The federal government’s share is approximately $29 billion, while state and local governments incur more than $84 billion per year with 56% of welfare usage directed toward immigrant families (“Deport California’s illegal-alien convicts,” 2011). Welfare is defined by programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for low income families, the elderly, and disabled; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); Women, Infant and Children (WIC) food program; free or reduced lunches; food stamps, which are also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; Medicaid or health insurance for low income persons; public housing; and rent subsidies (Camarota, 2011). The two main reasons for the high number of immigrants that use these programs are that education is very low for the illegal immigrant-headed households and because there is often just one worker in the household (Camarota, 2011).
According to the Federation of American Immigration reform, immigrant criminal behavior costs the federal government approximately $7.8 billion annually between police, court, and prison expenses (“Colorado’s jails full,” 2011). Edwards (2010) states, “some proponents for illegal immigrants assert that illegal’s do pay taxes. Not only the FAIR study, but any honest analysis shows that illegal aliens do not come close to paying their fair share of taxes” (para. 8). Federal taxes paid by illegal aliens’ amount to about $9.6 billion annually (Edwards, 2010). The FAIR report further stated “illegals contribute just $3.96 billion a year to state and local coffers. That’s eclipsed several times over by the $84 billion illegal’s collect through state and local public services.” ( para.8) Camarota (2011) explained that having tax liability does not mean that the household would actually have to pay federal taxes. Federal and state taxes, through employment, are where funds come from in order to pay for welfare programs and federal and state run jails or prisons.
The case of Brown v. Plata in 2011identified the Supreme Court ruling that the prisoners of a California prison were having their eighth amendment rights violated because the overcrowding was seen as cruel and unusual punishment. The court forced California to create room by releasing 46,000 of their 140,000 inmates back into society. It would seem simple to just send the prisoners back over the border; however, the federal government argued that immigration enforcement is not a state issue but a federal one; yet they expect the State of California to pay the bill. By definition, illegal immigrants are performing criminal activity just by being in the U.S. without being documented. Of those undocumented criminals, the immigrants that have been convicted of unrelated crimes at the state level not only have no right to be in this country but have abused the privilege of being here.
In order to get jobs, benefits, or even a driver’s license, one must possess some sort of identification. Those forms of identification include a birth certificate, social security card, driver’s license, or passport. If a person is illegal and has no form of identification, it is difficult to acquire such documentation. However, there are people and organizations that sell these kinds of documents. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a fact sheet that stated from 2006 to 2010, the DHS Fraud Department generated 1,871 indictments, 2,251 criminal arrests, and 1,643 felony convictions for the manufacturing, sale, or use of counterfeit documents (“Fact sheet,” 2010).
The Obama Administration attempted to expand an effort to check the 300,000 to 450,000 incarcerated illegal aliens in jails around the country. The Secure Communities program allows law enforcement officials to match fingerprints against federal immigration databases so those in the United States without authorization will face deportation when they complete their jail terms (Kingsbury, 2009). In 2016, only 3,000 had their immigration status checked. As with any controversial issue, there will be critics who complicate the matter and criticize the way a process works. In this circumstance, critics contend that the program will lead to racial profiling. A coalition of immigration rights groups wrote the House Speaker and explained that the program creates an incentive for police to arrest people on pre-textual or minor crimes so that their immigration status can be checked (Kingbury, 2009). “The concern is making sure that people have access to counsel or are advised of their rights.”(2008, para 10) Strohm went on to say, “sometimes people are pressured into signing away their rights by basically stipulating that they are removable from the United States.” (para.10)
Proponents of law enforcement agencies abstaining from enforcing federal immigration laws believe economical advantages which stimulate the United States economy as important in the decision of not placing more stern restrictions on illegal immigrants. The American Immigration Council (2011c) reported that immigrants play a crucial role in the U.S. economy as workers, entrepreneurs, taxpayers and consumers. Immigrant workers add to the amount of workers in the United States which increases the size of the economy and increases the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). Immigrants are at the top and the bottom of the educational scale which balances out due to Americans being in the center. This inequality depicts immigrants and U.S. workers complementing one another which spurs the economic growth (American Immigration Council, 2010). Immigration has the ability of pushing Americans toward better paying jobs, enhancing production, and creating jobs for the economy. Americans and immigrants have different levels of education which prevent them from competing in the same job markets. For example, a study conducted by the Fiscal Policy Institute examined the top 25 metropolitan areas in the U.S., and determined that the economic growth of metropolitan areas and growth in the immigrant proportion of the workforce were closely linked together. Although economists estimate that the overall benefit of immigration is small, there is a positive impact in the nation’s economy (American Immigration Council, 2012).
The National Academy of Sciences concluded that immigration helps replenish the U.S. talent pool as baby boomers retire from the science and engineering labor force. Immigrants also contribute to U.S. innovation and growth. For example, the Partnership for a New American Economy found that more than 40% of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies were established by immigrants or their children. Kraft Foods, Nordstrom, RadioShack, Cigna and General Dynamics are included references having immigrant founders. These companies have combined revenues of $4.2 trillion dollars and employ more than 10 million individuals across the world (American Immigration Council, 2011b). According to the American Immigration Council (2012), illegal immigrants contribute to the U.S. economy, and the country would lose $551.6 billion dollars in economic activity if all illegal immigrants were removed from the United States. This amount would equate to a loss of $245 billion in gross domestic product and an estimated 2.8 million jobs.
President Donald Trump’s immigration plan implies statements that abstain from certain facts. President Trump says he wants to end birthright citizenship, indicating that it remains the biggest magnet for illegal immigration. Birthright citizenship refers to the fact that a child born on U.S. soil is a U.S. citizen, even though both of the parents are illegal. Because the parents aren’t citizens, they can’t be issued a green card by their child until they are 21. Indications are that jobs and housing opportunities are the biggest reason for those coming to the U.S. illegally. Immigrants didn’t state that birthright was the reason for coming to the U.S. instead; a majority claimed jobs brought them to the United States and the remaining correspondents cited family reasons. President Trump’s plan states the cost on the U.S. for illegal immigration from Mexico is extraordinary. Taxpayers pick up billions of dollars in healthcare, housing, education, and welfare costs. However, studies have determined a small impact of illegal immigration on state and local budgets, and a positive impact on the federal budget. The Trump immigration plan claims that there are three million immigrants imprisoned due to arrests. Actually the number is 1.7 million and includes non convictions. About a third of those offenses were immigration offenses (529,859) and traffic violations (404,788). President Trump said that unless Mexico pays for the wall across the southern border, he would increase fees on border crossing cards issued to Mexicans. Border crossing cards are valid for ten years after issuance, except for children under 15.These are the same as a visitor’s visa and are issued to those with Mexican citizenship and residency, a Mexican passport, and ties to Mexico that would make them want to return to Mexico.
As anyone can see, illegal immigration is a very controversial issue. There are advantages and disadvantages to both sides of the debate. There is a definite harm that comes from illegal immigrants, namely crimes that are committed against persons/properties by these immigrants. The crime rate is high enough in the United States without allowing the borders to be unsecured to illegal immigrants who cross them to commit heinous crimes. All crime cannot be blamed on immigrants, but they are a part of the problem. American jails are already overcrowded, and they are being asked to house more prisoners because of the influx of illegal immigrants. The United States spends billions of dollars every year dealing with this issue and the economy is already very unstable.
There is also a humanitarian side of the issue. Some illegal immigrants have worked hard for little pay for many years and have committed only the crime of trying to feed their family. Nevertheless, they have still committed a crime by not getting the necessary paperwork or by being in possession of fraudulent documents to obtain work or services, while here illegally. With the weakening of American families through high divorce rates and one parent families, further deterioration of the family unit is not needed. Losing a breadwinner or a caregiver from a family is devastating, more so when living below the poverty level and have very little outside support to begin with.
Local and state law enforcement agencies should refrain from the enforcement of federal immigration laws. Immigration enforcement should remain the sole responsibility of the federal government in an effort to prevent further complications of the overflowing duties surrounding the mission of crime reduction (Hoffmaster, Murphy, McFadden & Griswold, 2010). Overall, law enforcement executives have chosen to take a careful and balanced approach in responding to pressures of immigration enforcement on a local and state level showing the significance in maintaining community support (Hoffmaster, Murphy, McFadden & Griswold, 2010).
Khashu (2009) denoted the primary issue regarding immigration enforcement is Congress failing to develop comprehensive immigration reform legislation which would have provided a national solution to the issue. The State of Arizona passed SB 1070 in 2010 that addressed immigration enforcement on the local level and expanded the authority of local law enforcement regarding federal immigration laws. The constitutionality of this legislation was challenged in federal court and sparked debates regarding the issue on all levels (Hoffmaster, Murphy, McFadden & Griswold, 2010). Essentially, this unresolved issue has prompted local and state law enforcement agencies to intensify the enforcement of immigration laws, prohibit undocumented immigrant access to government benefits and services, violate the civil right of documented and undocumented immigrants, as well as penalize employers found hiring undocumented immigrants (Khashu, 2009).
International and national public safety issues are complex and are apparently forced to be the primary focus of local and state law enforcement agencies. Immigration enforcement on those levels has shifted their primary focus from protecting and serving the public to apprehending and deporting undocumented immigrants within the communities they serve. A shift in focus of this can define the relationship between the police and the public. Many of these relationships took years to establish and will take extreme effort to maintain by continuing to build trust and obtain the confidence of the public. Undocumented immigrants reside in communities across the U.S. and assist the local and state police in resolving crime problems through collaboration, support, and cooperation on behalf of community members.
Khashu (2009) explained how police executives continue to urge the federal government to enact comprehensive immigration reform in an effort to thwart relentless consequences on cities and towns throughout the U.S. who have difficulty addressing immigration concerns effectively. Police executives are working to develop policies and solutions that are most advantageous for their respective jurisdictions. Ultimately, the duty of public safety organizations is to provide protection to all residents in their communities regardless of their status as an undocumented or documented immigrant. Although federal reform immigration statutes remain absent, police leaders are working to establish and implement practical policies that are fair and capable of maintaining the trust of all segments of the community (Hoffmaster, Murphy, Mcfadden & Griswold, 2010).
Recently President Trump mentioned the installation of 150,000 National Guardsmen throughout the country with the sole purpose of the locating and deporting undocumented immigrants that are wanted by local and state agencies. This is a positive action as long as it remains the action of the federal government and not another responsibility of local and state agencies. There is already enough on their plates.
American Immigration Council (2010). Strength in diversity: The economic and political clout of immigrants, Latinos, and Asians.Immigration Policy Center. Retrieved from http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/print/just-facts/strength-diversity-economic-and-political-power-immigrants-latinos-and-asians
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