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Blogs / ICMA | blog / How Will the Immigration Enforcement Memos Affect States and Local Governments?

How Will the Immigration Enforcement Memos Affect States and Local Governments?

This week the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), John Kelly, issued two immigration enforcement memorandums. While one of the memos addresses President Trump’s executive order involving sanctuary cities (Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States), neither memo discusses sanctuary cities.

The most direct effect of these memos on states and local governments is the expansion of a program allowing state and local law enforcement officers to be designated as “immigration officers” for the purposes of enforcing federal immigration law. But considering this program is voluntary the most significant effect for states and local governments may be the increased deportations of residents, and the effects of them on family members and the community as a whole, expected to occur as a result of the memos.

Under President Obama DHS had a three-tier approach to prioritizing deportations. Priority one focused on “threats to national security, border security, and public safety.” Perhaps the most significant change in these memos is that DHS now has seven new priorities for removal including, among others, those charged (not yet convicted) of a crime and those who have committed acts which constitute a chargeable criminal offense (arguably anyone here illegally).    

The memos direct Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hire an additional 10,000 officers and agents and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to hire 5,000 more Border Patrol agents.

The logical conclusion to draw from the changes in enforcement priorities and the hiring of addition immigration officers is that deportations will increase—perhaps even significantly so.

The memos do not undo President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program which allows some undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to temporarily work and avoid deportation. The most controversial parts of the memo includes possibly taking away the legal protections available to some unaccompanied minors who have parents in the United States and removing and criminally prosecuting parents who have their children smuggled into the United States.

Again, most directly relevant to states and local governments is that the memos encourage ICE and CBP to expand to the “greatest extent practicable” the 287(g) Program allowing state and local law enforcement officers to be designated as “immigration officers” for the purposes of enforcing federal immigration law. Currently 32 law enforcement agencies in 16 states participate in this voluntary program. 

As discussed in the Atlantic the Trump administration is probably counting on states and local governments to help with immigration enforcement through state and local officers assisting in immigration raids and housing detainees in local jails, regardless of whether 287(g) agreements are in place. Unsurprisingly, following these memos some states and local governments have indicated they will not cooperate in anyway with federal immigration enforcement.     

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