Trust in Immigration Enforcement: State Noncooperation and Sanctuary Cities after Secure Communities
45 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2015 Last revised: 27 Nov 2015
Date Written: August 1, 2015
The conventional wisdom, backed by legitimacy research, is that most people obey most of the laws, most of the time. This turns out to not be the case in a study of state-local participation in immigration law enforcement. Two enforcement programs involving the use of immigration detainers, a vehicle by which the federal government (through ICE) requests that local law enforcement agencies (LEAs) detain immigrants beyond their scheduled release upon suspicion that they are removable, demonstrate the breakdown of conventional wisdom. In the five years following initiation of the Secure Communities program, a significant and growing number of states and localities have declined to cooperate with federal immigration detainer requests or enacted sanctuary policies -- ultimately leading to the demise of the Secure Communities program and a reworking of federal-local partnerships in immigration enforcement through the Priority Enforcement program that replaced it in November 2014. The balance of crime control and community trust in immigration enforcement is being reset as the political pendulum swings as Congress considers legislative reforms to curb local resistance to detainers following the killing of Kathryn Steinle in July 2015.
This Essay finds that state and local non-cooperation in immigration enforcement -- a timely example of uncooperative federalism -- is influenced by attitudes toward the legitimacy of executive action -- distinct from attitudes toward the law’s legality, morality, or politics. Both cooperation and noncooperation contribute to a policymaking feedback loop in ways more complicated than existing theories of cooperative federalism and executive action presage.
Keywords: immigration, executive action, detainers, cooperative federalism, legitimacy
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