© 2016 by Migrant Legal Action Program, Inc.

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Washington, D.C. 20036

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DEPUTIZATION OF STATE AND LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS FOR IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT 

As part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, Congress gave the Attorney General of the United States the power to enter into written agreements with states and municipalities that would allow specially-trained state and local law enforcement officers to perform the functions of a federal immigration officer. Agreements concluded under this section (8 U.S.C. § 1357(g)) permit such officers to investigate, apprehend, and detain undocumented immigrants.

While there were a number of agreements between states or localities and the federal government, the Obama Administration allowed these agreements to expire without renewal.  

The incoming Trump Administration has discussed renewing this program.

When the program ended, only two states had concluded agreements under this section. Florida concluded the first such agreement, called a memorandum of understanding (MOU), in June 2002. The memorandum was due to expire in September 2003, but was renewed for another year. Under the Florida MOU, the primary limitation on the activities of the 35 specially-trained state law enforcement officers was that they could only engage in immigration enforcement functions when taking part in security or counter-terrorism operations which are supervised by federal immigration officers.

Alabama became the second state to enter into a memorandum of understanding with federal immigration authorities, doing so in October 2003. There were 21 Alabama state troopers certified to enforce federal immigration law. According to statements by the Alabama Department of Public Safety, these officers did not participate in large-scale sweeps for undocumented immigrants. They only engaged in immigration law enforcement activities when the occasion to do so arose during the course of their normal duties.

In response to 8 U.S.C. § 1357(g), a large number of state and local governments took actions designed to prevent or deter such deputization of their law enforcement agencies. (Other states and localities already had similar laws in effect.) States and localities which took such action include: Alaska, Oregon, Anchorage, AK, Fairbanks, AK, Chandler, AZ, Fresno, CA, Los Angeles, CA, San Diego, CA, San Francisco, CA, Sonoma County, CA, Evanston, IL, Cicero, IL, Cambridge, MA, Orleans, MA, Portland, ME, Baltimore, MD, Takoma Park, MD, Ann Arbor, MI, Detroit, MI, Minneapolis, MN, Durham, NC, Albuquerque, NM, Aztec, NM, Rio Arriba, NM, Santa Fe, NM, New York, NY, Ashland, OR, Gaston, OR, Marion County, OR, Austin, TX, Houston, TX, Katy, TX, and Madison, WI. The degree to which each of these laws and ordinances permitted local law enforcement officials to enter into agreements with federal immigration officials varied.

Some jurisdictions, including many police forces, argue that knowing that some police officers have the power to enforce federal immigration laws discourages undocumented immigrants from coming forward to report crimes or act as witnesses. Many police forces also argue that this would undermine the trust and relationships that they have worked to build with their local immigrant communities. Some critics of the deputizing agreements argue that the agreements could lead to racial profiling and violations of the civil rights of some groups.