Immigration refers to the entry of people into a country in which they are not citizens with the intention of settling as naturalized citizens, migrant workers, and permanent residents (Borjas, 2014). When people reach their destination, they come to be referred to as immigrants/migrants. Some of the reasons why people move from their countries include unfavorable economic, political and environmental conditions. Some of the pull factors, on the other hand, are access to jobs, better standards of living, family reunion, etc. When people flock to a new destination, they always carry some threats to the area and these may include terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and an uncontrolled immigration/mass influx of foreigners. The United States of America as one of the highly coveted migrant destination faces such problems, and thus the federal government has to adopt some measures to contain the issue through controlling migration, as well as impounding illegal immigrants and deporting them. The role of dealing with immigration issues lies in the hands of the Immigration Officers, but in the wake of the increasing terrorism threat the Federal Government sought to include the state and local police officers in the fight against illegal immigrants. However, the attempt attracted disapproval from the police officers, legal experts, as well as the members of the public. Regarding the mixed reactions, the matter is contentious and needs thorough examination, as well as additional changes in order to avoid the conflict. This paper, therefore, seeks to examine the logic of employing the police officers in the migratory issues, the rules that govern the police force on such matters, and the reasons why the officers oppose the attempts to involve them in the fight against illegal immigration.
The Logic of Employing the Local Police Force in the Immigration Policing Matters
The primary role of the officers is to enforce the law and address the problem of crime through measures such as apprehending the offenders and prosecuting them. Some of the offenders include murderers, rapists, robbers, traffic offenders, etc. The people who stay in the United States illegally are violators of the law, and thus, they qualify as criminals. The police must therefore include the role of arresting illegal immigrants in their duties as they fall in the category of lawbreakers (Ferrell, 2016). Additionally, terrorism is a significant threat to the citizens of the United States as well as the government. The local police departments have the role of fighting terror in the interior of the country, so the first step should be “weeding out” illegal immigrants, as this would form the foundation of elimination of terrorism. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution affirms the role of police in immigration policing by asserting that if the officers have reasonable evidence that the a person is an alien, then there is nothing wrong with executing an arrest (Ferrell, 2016).
Additionally, the bicameral legislature of the United States that consist of the House of Representatives and the Senate allowed the state and the local police to arrest people who violate immigration laws, specifically the Immigration and the Nationality Act. Some of the violations include smuggling, conveying, or hosting illegal immigrants, as well as the illegal return of an individual after deportation (Khashu, 2009).
Rules Applying to Local Police on Immigration Matters
The Immigration and Nationality Act
Under the law, the local and the state police have the authority to apprehend and lock up a person for an illegal stay in the United States, for having a previous case of conviction due to a felony, or for having been deported earlier. The law forms the basis for the Congress’ move to allow the involvement of the local/state police on immigration matters. The section 287 (g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act approved the training of state and local police officers to deal with immigration isues, so this allowed them to participate in immigration policing (Khashu, 2009). However, the Attorney General’s legal opinion in 2002 contradicted the rule. He stated that when the local or state officers stumbled upon a foreigner, whose name appeared in the National Crime Information Centers list for the violators of immigration law, the federal law allows the arrest of the person for handing them over to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. This statement contradicts the provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act that empowers the local police to participate in the matters (Khashu, 2009). The opinion implies that the police can only involve themselves in matters to do with immigration if in the course of their routine duties, but not patrolling in search for violators of the immigration laws, as they have no authority to do that.
Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act 1996
The law allows the police on the state and the local level to apprehend and locks up individuals whose presence in the United States is illegal due to a previous deportation or committing a crime in the United States. The law also classifies reentry after deportation as a crime and thus the local and the state police have the power to approach immigration issues as stipulated by the law (National Immigration Forum).
The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Personality Act 1996
The law allows the state and local police to enforce immigration laws that are civil in nature in a situation of a “mass inflow of foreigners.” The law also set a means that allowed the attorney general to hand the authority of the immigration law enforcement to the local or state police under the condition that the officers are trained on immigration issues, and the Department of Justice does not object to their involvement in the immigration matters (National Immigration Forum).
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution
In the U.S. v Brignoni-Ponce, the Supreme Court stated that the protections guaranteed to the citizens of the United States by the Fourth Amendment are applicable in cases where the police detain people to facilitate investigations about the violation of immigration laws. The court argued that law protects the citizens that the officers might mistake for aliens, and thus the court prohibited the police officers to flag down motorists to ascertain their immigrant status (Ferrell, 2016). The tribunal’s decision, therefore, made it hard for the local and state police to participate in the immigration issues.
Reasons Why the Police Officers Object to the Move
Lack of Training and Addition of an Extra Burden
The state and local police lack the expertise and training to enforce laws dealing with immigration. The local budget constraints do not allow the states to tackle the issues that falls under the prerogative of the federal government. Additionally, there are federal agencies tasked with executing immigration law enforcement and they do not assist the police in their duties of handling criminal cases such as robbery and drug trafficking. Due to this reason, the participation of the police in the immigration issues will be a significant burden and an additional role, and may inhibit their ability to execute their regular duties well (Ferrell, 2016).
Negative Impact on the Cooperation between the Police and the Immigrant Population
If the local or the state police enforce immigration rules, it means that they will have to flag down motorists or even arrest pedestrians to ascertain the legality of their migrant status. This move will significantly affect the cooperation between the migrant population and the police as the community will perceive the cops as their enemies and avoid coming into contact with the law enforcers. This development will in turn affect the policing matters, as no member of the population will volunteer information to the officers under fear of arrest or harassment (Ferrell, 2016). The police further argue that they can only handle migrant offenders if there is a warrant for detention or an element of a criminal offense.
The Constraint of “Warrant of Arrest”
The local police have the duty to comply with their respective state laws and most of the states require them to execute arrests only if they have a warrant. The respective legislation of various states may inhibit the authority and the ability of the law enforcers to apprehend and lock up people on suspicion of contravening the federal statutes. For instance, Texas requires the police officers to arrest people while either is possession of a warrant or when the criminal is committing a felony (Ferrell, 2016). Such regulations, therefore, make it hard for the police force to involve themselves in matters of immigration.
The federal government should increase the number of immigration officers and distribute them to various states to deal with the issue of illegal immigrants, as opposed to adding an extra burden to the police force. By doing so, the federal government will save the police force from the non-cooperation that may arise between the migrants and the police force due to the involvement of the latter in immigrant issues. Through increased staffing, the government will also have an adequate workforce to deal with the problem in the interior of the country.
The government also needs to harmonize the rules to avoid contradiction in the laws governing the fight against the influx of illegal migrants. For instance, the Immigration and Nationality Act, Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act 1996, and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Personality Act 1996 give the local police power to arrest and detain illegal migrants or those who commit immigrant offenses. However, the Fourth Amendment of the Federal Constitution neutralizes those powers by narrowing them to an extent where a warrant of arrest is produced. The government, therefore, needs to get rid of the confusion to allow the fight against illegal immigration to have a steady course.
There is a need for a constitutional amendment to classify the immigration offenses as criminal violations as opposed to civil offenses. By classifying the migratory offenses as such, there will be no confusion regarding who should address the issues as the police will obviously have the power to deal with the issues. It is, therefore, wise for the government to consider eliminating the differences to make the approach easier.
In conclusion, the issue of immigration is controversial for the U.S. Federal Government as the country is a popular destination for many. The problem gained even more significance after the 2001 bombing. The intensity of the matter prompted the government to call for the involvement of local and state police officers to confront the issue. However, the move drew opposition from the police and legal experts. The rationale for involving the police is that the violation of migration laws means breaking the law, so it can be considered a crime. The separate legislation that calls for the involvement of the police in the immigration affairs are the Immigration and Nationality Act, Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act 1996, and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Personality Act 1996. The Fourth Amendment also relates to the matter due to the protection it offers to the American citizens, limiting the role of the police in immigration policing as provided by the aforementioned laws. Some of the reasons why the police oppose their involvement in the issue are lack of training and the addition of an extra burden, reduced cooperation with the public, and the barrier of the warrant of arrest. Lastly, the government needs to adopt some recommendations to resolve the stalemate. The available solutions are definition of immigration violations as crimes, the harmonization of laws to eliminate the conflict, and the employment of more immigration officials and posting them in the interior to deal with the problem.