ACLU Says Federal Officials Should Enforce Immigration Laws

February 27, 2003 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today told lawmakers that federal officials – rather than local law enforcement officers — should continue to enforce immigration laws, saying that doing so protects civil liberties, public safety in immigrant communities and prevents the drainage of needed resources from state and local law enforcement.

Immigration laws are extraordinarily complex and should be enforced by trained federal officials,”” said Timothy Edgar, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “”State and local police should not be burdened with this added responsibility, which would only sap their resources and erode the trust that they’ve built in their immigrant communities.””

The House Judiciary Committee’s panel on Immigration, Border Security and Claims Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN), held a hearing this morning on New York City’s Sanctuary Policy, whose purpose is to keep New York City police officers from becoming entangled in immigration enforcement.

Supporters of such policies rightly believe, the ACLU said, that a hands-off approach to immigration law for local police actually increases public safety by establishing trust between police departments and immigrant communities, which makes it easier for the police to solve crimes.

Right-leaning supporters of federal, rather than local, enforcement of immigration laws cite another key reason. Leading conservatives, such as Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and David Keene of the American Conservative Union, oppose state and local police involvement in immigration matters because of the precedent it would set for the enforcement of other federal regulations.

Keene and Norquist worry that the “”nationalization of local police”” in this case would set the stage for the federal deputization of state and local authorities to enforce, for instance, environmental law or the Americans With Disabilities Act, both of which require intensive training before their enforcers can even begin to navigate their complexities.

During the controversy last year about a Department of Justice announcement that it would be including the names of certain non-citizens in a national database accessible by state and local police, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales made it quite clear that the President only supported state and local law enforcement of immigration laws for a very small “”high-risk”” subset of non-citizens who “”fit a terrorist profile.””

“”Support for keeping state and local police out of immigration enforcement is strong and ideologically broad,”” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “”Such policies promote both safety and freedom equally and effectively.””

The ACLU’s statement for the hearing can be found online at:

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