Understanding Local Law Enforcement Involvement in Deportations

The federal immigration system continues to expand and grow more punitive, and its impact depends in large part on the voluntary time and resources of local governments and law enforcement agencies. There is no legal obligation for localities to use their resources to help with immigration enforcement. Some local and state officials have recognized the poor policy effects of working too closely with ICE, which has torn countless families apart and undermines already strained relations with local law enforcement. In addition, following federal court rulings that ICE detainers (requests to have an individual held for transfer to deportation proceedings directly from local custody) are unconstitutional, hundreds of counties and cities no longer comply with these requests.

The map below shows the degree to which local law enforcement offer assistance to federal immigration authorities, as well as the degree to which localities have enacted laws or policies limiting their involvement in federal immigration enforcement. The map is based on a 7-point rubric of the types of policy choices that most affect local engagement in immigration enforcement. Because the 7 factors are cumulative, counties of the same color do not necessarily have the same policies, but rather offer the same number of types of assistance to ICE. In addition, the map reflects existing policy statements or laws, but not the actual level of compliance with those laws.

For more details about local policies regarding immigration enforcement and analysis of what this map means, see our report: Searching for Sanctuary (2016) and the update: The Rise of Sanctuary (2018).

More Explanation

  • (0 – 1) The red and dark red jurisdictions spend substantial local time and resources on civil immigration enforcement, whether under a 287(g) agreement, by contracting with ICE to detain immigrants, or both.
  • (2) The orange jurisdictions generally do not have formal MOUs or contracts with ICE, but nonetheless are willing to hold immigrants on detainers, provide extensive information about individuals in county custody to ICE, and generally grant requests that ICE makes of them. We are concerned that most of these counties may be regularly violating the Fourth Amendment by detaining immigrants without probable cause or legal authority.
  • (3) The yellow counties, by and large, offer more limited assistance to ICE, and are largely defined by their rejection of ICE detainers. Because multiple federal courts have found ICE detainers to be illegal, these jurisdictions will not hold anyone for transfer to ICE, although they are willing to provide ICE notice of when someone in custody will be released and other information or assistance.
  • (4 - 5) The yellow-green and light green counties go further in disentangling the local criminal legal system from immigration enforcement, generally by declining ICE detainers, by limiting ICE’s ability to interrogate individuals while in local custody, by refraining from asking about immigration status or place of birth, or by otherwise enacting policies that they will not assist in any civil immigration enforcement.
  • (6 – 7) The green and dark green jurisdictions have the most comprehensive protections to prevent local resources from going to civil immigration enforcement.

The Department of Homeland Security is the largest law enforcement agency in the country, and in its 14 years of existence has built a massive infrastructure to exploit local resources in the business of detaining and deporting immigrants. Even those localities that have enacted the most comprehensive policies to restrict their own involvement in civil immigration enforcement are still connected to this machine. ICE and CBP access shared law enforcement databases, receive automatic fingerprint checks through Secure Communities, and use any other means available to get information and assistance from local law enforcement.

At the ILRC, we have seen tremendous success of local policies that disentangle local law enforcement from ICE, and we continue to support those initiatives. Immigrants who know that their local law enforcement agents are not involved in deportations are better integrated, more secure, and more involved in our communities. Their children are less likely to live in fear of losing a parent. Crime has continued to fall. We continue to advise communities, law enforcement, and elected officials across the country on their legal and constitutional authority regarding immigration enforcement, including the legal and constitutional defects of ICE detainers.

For press inquiries about this map, ILRC’s reports on sanctuary policies, or other ILRC information about immigration enforcement, contact Marie McIntosh at media [at] ilrc.org. For more information about the data underlying the map, contact Krsna Avila at kavila [at] ilrc.org. For assistance in starting a local campaign or joining national efforts, contact Lena Graber at lgraber [at] ilrc.org.