Trust in Immigration Enforcement: State Noncooperation and Sanctuary Cities after Secure Communities

45 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2015 Last revised: 27 Nov 2015

See all articles by Ming Hsu Chen

Ming Hsu Chen

University of Colorado Law School; Center for the Study of Law & Society; University of Colorado, Boulder - Political Science

Date Written: August 1, 2015

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Chen, Ming Hsu, Trust in Immigration Enforcement: State Noncooperation and Sanctuary Cities after Secure Communities (August 1, 2015). 91 Chicago Kent L Rev (2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2638849

Ming Hsu Chen (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

Center for the Study of Law & Society ( email )

2240 Piedmont Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

University of Colorado, Boulder - Political Science ( email )

1070 Edinboro Drive
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

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