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How Local Police Took Over Immigration Enforcement

The book cover of "Policing Immigrants"
University of Chicago Press
The book cover of "Policing Immigrants"
How Local Police Took Over Immigration Enforcement
How Local Police Took Over Immigration Enforcement GUEST: Doris Marie Provine, co-author, "Policing Immigrants: Local Law Enforcement on the Front Lines"

All around the country, states are trying to address untouched sexual evidence kit. With Joining me today is Doris Marie Provine , the co-author of the book "Policing Immigrants: Local Law Enforcement on the Front Lines". Welcome to the program. There was a time when local police would not take part in immigration control. That was strictly federal territory. We get that start to change? That started to change in the 90s. There was one an exception in that in that local police had to deal with someone like a mafia figure, the federal government would be involved. Why did it start to change? I think it started to change from the grassroots. In California we had Proposition 187 in 1994. By 1996, Congress had passed a couple pieces of legislation giving the Sheriff's involved. Proposition 187 being a very divisive piece of legislation in California . It stopped people from access to medical care and education. We get that wake up the federal government and have them get local law enforcement involved in policing immigrants? Because it was kind of a surprise factor. The percentage voting for was well over 50%. I think it was 59%. California is a big state and conquer -- Congress became aware this was a controversial issue. You write that America has a patchwork of immigration enforcement. How-tos that manifests itself? What are the extremes? I live in Arizona and that is an extreme place. Other places are extreme places like San Francisco. There is not a very good fit between federal priorities which of boiled down to numbers and local priorities which are about public safety and public trust. Why would one disability crack down on immigration enforcement while another dozen? Did you find it was demographics are proximity to the border? We thought we would find some of those variables to be salient. But what we found was a relationship between conservative ideology in the local area and a tendency towards harsher measures. But every community has its own priorities. In a meatpacking town it may be a conservative place, but they know who their essential workers are. So it is ultimately very local because the full system is larded with discretion at every single level. Does the government rely on local police to police immigrants now? It has pulled back significantly under the pressure of lawsuits and noncompliant. It took six years for secure communities which was an evolutionary ideology today. Now there is a much more modest role for the federal government. It still going to be a patchwork but not to the same extent. When you say you live in one of the extremes, did SB 1070 have something to do with the federal government backing away from getting local law enforcement involved in policing immigrants with It may have. I think the supreme court's decision, reminding everyone that immigration enforcement is a federal matter -- as a federal matter helped. And Maricopa County was kind of a warning of what it might look like if this were a national priority, it could be SB 1070 everywhere. Your conclusion is the book is that this patchwork approach has had a number of data fax. What are those that affect, as you see it? The biggest problem from our perspective is that it puts the police and law enforcement generally in an awkward position. The dominant way to think about public safety at the local level is that everybody in the community has to be involved. Kind of the eyes and ears for the police that comes forward with what it observed along with what officers observed. The idea of napping people with undocumented status that live in the community is a contradiction. Finally, you say the federal government appears to be backing away from this approach. Basically reasserting its privacy when it comes to immigration and enforcement. But can this really be put back in the bottle? No. Not really. Law enforcement is highly discretionary to begin with. We are talking about a highly controversial area. There are reasons to have the policies be day and soft and not clear. That leaves room for more discretion. The system at this stage is essentially run by beurocrats who can stay out of the light. That means we are in for a patchwork for I think, a very long time. I have been thing -- speaking with Doris Marie Provine, co-author, "Policing Immigrants: Local Law Enforcement on the Front Lines" . Thank you for being here. Thank you for inviting me.

Immigration enforcement varies widely across the United States. Some so-called "sanctuary cities" such as San Francisco restrict how much information local police can share with federal officials, while others are eager to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

This "patchwork" of police approaches stems from the federal government's tightening of immigration laws in the 1990s, according to Doris Marie Provine, a professor emerita of justice studies at Arizona State University. Amid criticism of lax enforcement, the federal government sought to increase its reach in the nation's interior by enlisting police and sheriff departments to help identify immigrants in the U.S. illegally when they were arrested and to enforce immigration laws while out on patrol.

“The inclusion of local police in immigration enforcement offered a way for the federal government to greatly increase capacity without paying for it and without losing ultimate control over who would be deported,” Provine wrote in her new book, "Policing Immigrants: Local Law Enforcement on the Front Lines."

Provine joined KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday to discuss how this patchwork will likely continue and why she believes local law enforcement should shy away from the trend.

"There's really not a very good fit between federal priorities, which boil down to numbers for the most part, and local priorities, which boil down to public safety and trust," Provine said.