Thursday, July 08, 2010

Authority to enforce Federal immigration law

One of the bona contention with respect to the Arizona immigration law is whether Arizona can intrude on Federal territory by enforcing the Federal immigration law. This blog post at JustOneMinute: Holder/Obama v. Arizona looks at what's happening in Maine.

Wild Bill Jacobson and Andy McCarthy tell us that Rhode Island police are already doing what the Arizona police are about to commence, namely, enforcing the Federal immigration statutes. More importantly, they were sued for doing so and the First Circuit found for the police.

And here is an interesting wrinkle from the opinion upholding the police stop, questioning and detainment (my emphasis):
Thus, there was a reasonable basis 20 for the officer to contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).   The ICE representative called back three minutes later and noted that the agency wanted to identify the passengers and their status, “due to the lack of identification and strong possibility that the [van's] occupants were illegal immigrants.”

This was enough to raise a serious question, warranting further investigation of whether plaintiffs were in violation of immigration laws.   A reasonable officer would believe this evidence was sufficient to merit extending the period of detention for the next one-to-two hours to accompany the van to the ICE office, whether the passengers consented or not.   Indeed, federal law gives the authority to arrest for violations of § 1324 to all “officers whose duty it is to enforce criminal laws.”   Id. § 1324(c).
We wouldn't expect a judge to be wrong about that, and he does not seem to be; here is the relevant section of USC 8-1342:
(c) Authority to arrest

No officer or person shall have authority to make any arrests for a violation of any provision of this section except officers and employees of the Service designated by the Attorney General, either individually or as a member of a class, and all other officers whose duty it is to enforce criminal laws.
That seems pretty clear. In the specific case at hand, the police had stopped a van with fifteen likely illegals on their way to work. The possibility that the driver or the employer was working in concert with alien-smugglers was certainly in play and merited investigation. Well, if these laws mean anything.

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