Wednesday, July 16, 2014
This Congressional Research Service report on "sanctuary policies" is summarized below:
While the power to prescribe rules as to which aliens may enter the United States and which aliens may be removed resides solely with the federal government, the impact of alien migration—whether lawful or unlawful—is arguably felt most directly in the communities where aliens settle. State and local responses to unlawfully present aliens within their jurisdictions have varied considerably, particularly as to the role that state and local police should play in enforcing federal immigration law. Some states, cities, and other municipalities have sought to play an active role in immigration enforcement efforts. However, others have been unwilling to assist the federal government in enforcing measures that distinguish between residents with legal immigration status and those who lack authorization under federal law to be present in the United States. In some circumstances, these jurisdictions have actively opposed federal immigration authorities’ efforts to identity and remove certain unlawfully present aliens within their jurisdictions.
Although state and local restrictions on cooperation with federal immigration enforcement efforts have existed for decades, there has reportedly been an upswing in the adoption of these measures in recent years. Moreover, the nature of these restrictions has evolved over time, particularly in response to the development of new federal immigration enforcement initiatives like Secure Communities, which enable federal authorities to more easily identify removable aliens in state or local custody. Entities that have adopted such policies are sometimes referred to as “sanctuary” jurisdictions, though there is not necessarily a consensus as to the meaning of this term or its application to a particular state or locality.
This report discusses legal issues related to state and local measures that limit law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The report begins by providing a brief overview of the constitutional principles informing the relationship between federal immigration authorities and state and local jurisdictions, including the federal government’s power to preempt state and local activities under the Supremacy Clause, and the Tenth Amendment’s proscription against Congress directly “commandeering” the states to administer a federally enacted regulatory scheme.
The report then discusses various types of measures adopted or considered by states and localities to limit their participation in federal immigration enforcement efforts, including (1) limiting police investigations into the immigration status of persons with whom they come in contact; (2) declining to honor federal immigration authorities’ requests that certain aliens be held until those authorities may assume custody; (3) shielding certain unlawfully present aliens from detection by federal immigration authorities; and (4) amending or applying state criminal laws so as to reduce or eliminate the immigration consequences that might result from an alien’s criminal conviction.