n December 1, the IACP announced its opposition to the Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal (CLEAR) Act (HR 2671) and urged Congress to proceed with caution when considering measures that would compel state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration laws.
The IACP took this action after a careful review of the impact that enforcing immigration law could have on state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.
"The IACP opposes any plan that would coerce local and state law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration laws without their approval," said IACP President Joseph Estey, chief of the Hartford, Vermont, Police Department. "Many leaders in the law enforcement community have serious concerns about the chilling effect any measure of this nature would have on legal and illegal aliens reporting criminal activity or assisting police in criminal investigations. This lack of cooperation could diminish the ability of law enforcement agencies to police effectively their communities and protect the public they serve."
The CLEAR Act, which is sponsored by Representative Charlie Norwood (R-Georgia), currently has 125 cosponsors. It has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. In October 2003 a subcommittee held a hearing on the bill. However, no other action was taken. It will most likely be reintroduced next year when Congress reconvenes for the 109th session.
As part of this announcement, the IACP also released a policy document entitled "Enforcing Immigration Law: The Role of State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement," which highlights its concerns about state and local law enforcement agencies' enforcing federal immigration law.
Foremost among the document's conclusions is the determination that because the question of state, tribal, or local law enforcement's participation in immigration enforcement is an inherently local decision, any legislative proposal to enlist the assistance of nonfederal agencies in immigration enforcement must be based on voluntary cooperation of state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies.
The CLEAR Act, in contrast, would penalize states by withholding federal assistance funds if they fail to authorize state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration laws.
It would also penalize state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies by withholding federal assistance funds if agencies fail to meet detailed reporting requirements about suspected illegal aliens who are apprehended.
"Police chiefs know what is best for their communities and should be the ones to decide whether or not their agencies will be involved in enforcing federal immigration laws."
"Police chiefs know what is best for their communities and should be the ones to decide whether or not their agencies will be involved in enforcing federal immigration laws," said Chief Estey. "The CLEAR Acts reliance on sanctions is bad for local law enforcement agencies. If Congress is serious about asking state, tribal, and local agencies to assume these additional duties it should focus on giving them the tools they need to combat all crimes, not just illegal immigration."
Other findings in the IACP report include the following:
- The federal government must devise a clear and complete statement that outlines the role of state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies in this effort and enumerates the legal authority of state, tribal, and local law enforcement officers to act in these matters.
- Any legislative proposal addressing immigration enforcement should provide law enforcement agencies with incentives to perform these federal duties.
- Agencies that agree to perform immigration enforcement activities should receive federal funding to get the job done. For example, agencies would need funds to cover the personnel costs associated with the enforcement effort, training programs for their officers, and housing and transportation of suspects prior to their release into federal custody.
- Legislative proposals must provide personal liability immunity to state, tribal, and local law enforcement officials for enforcing federal immigration laws within the scope of their duties and immunity for state, tribal, and local agencies unless their personnel violate criminal law in such enforcement.
The document is available on the IACP Web site at (www.theiacp.org/documents/pdfs/Publications/ImmigrationEnforcementconf%2Epdf).
"Police chiefs know what is best for their communities and should be the ones to decide whether or not their agencies will be involved in enforcing federal immigration laws." ■