State/Local Police Enforcement of Immigration Laws (CLEAR Act)
There have been several attempts to involve state and local police in the enforcement of federal civil immigration laws. For example, the “Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal Act” (CLEAR Act) was introduced in 2003 and reintroduced in 2005, and provisions of the CLEAR Act continue to be introduced year after year as amendments to other bills. In general, these bills and amendments would give state and local police officers the authority to enforce all federal immigration laws; give financial incentives to states and localities to comply; criminalize all immigration law violations; and place the names of any individuals believed to be in violation of immigration laws in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database.
Recently states and localities have also taken measures to involve their police forces in the enforcement of federal immigration laws, often by entering into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
While the safety and security of our communities and our country are of the utmost importance, new policies that would allow local police departments to enforce federal civil immigration law will hinder criminal investigations and have a serious negative impact on Latino communities. Immigrant advocates, legal experts, and many law enforcement agencies agree that the Department of Justice’s policy shift is in direct conflict with long-standing legal tradition; will inevitably result in higher levels of racial profiling, police misconduct, and other civil rights violations; and will undermine – rather than strengthen – effective enforcement and antiterrorism activities.
NCLR strongly opposes efforts to make state and local police responsible for the enforcement of federal immigration laws. State and local law enforcement agencies should not enforce federal immigration laws, and these bills would be detrimental to the Latino community. They would erode the relationship between immigrant communities and law enforcement officers, would mean that fewer people report crimes, and would take scarce resources away from other police functions, leaving entire communities less safe. This type of legislation would also likely result in increased racial profiling and civil rights violations by state and local police officers.