The War on Terror, Local Police, and Immigration Enforcement: A Curious Tale of Police Power in Post-9/11 America

61 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2007 Last revised: 11 Feb 2008

See all articles by David A. Harris

David A. Harris

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law


In post-9/11 America, preventing the next terrorist attack ranks as law enforcement's top priority. This is as true for local police departments as it is for the FBI. This has led many advocates of stronger enforcement of U.S. immigration law to recast their efforts as anti-terrorism campaigns. As part of this endeavor, these advocates have called for local police to become involved in enforcing immigration law, and their allies in both the executive and legislative branches of the federal government have taken a number of actions designed to force local police to do this. Surprisingly, local law enforcement has for the most part vehemently refused to accept this new responsibility, saying that becoming involved in immigration enforcement will actually make the public not safer, but less safe, from criminals and even from terrorists. The reasons for this have much to do with the success of community policing over the last twenty years. Thus the refusal of state and local law enforcement to become involved in immigration enforcement both illuminates a turning point in American policing, and teaches us important lessons in how we must go forward in the war on terror if we are to succeed.

Keywords: immigration enforcement, police, local police, police power, war on terror, national security, borders, CLEAR Act, crime, community policing

Suggested Citation

Harris, David A., The War on Terror, Local Police, and Immigration Enforcement: A Curious Tale of Police Power in Post-9/11 America. Rutgers Law Journal, Vol. 38, No. 1, Fall 2006, U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2007-04, Available at SSRN:

David A. Harris (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

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