October 19, 1998
INS and Florida Sign Historic Agreement On Response to a Mass Migration
Fla. - U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Commissioner Doris Meissner and Florida Governor Lawton Chiles today signed the first agreement between the federal government and a state that provides for a joint response to a mass influx of aliens.
The Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU) formalizes the terms under which Florida will support INS operations in response to an actual or imminent mass migration into the state. Under the MOU, Florida may provide logistical and law enforcement support to the federal response upon request by INS. INS, as the lead federal agency, will coordinate responsive law enforcement operations, and the state will be reimbursed for authorized expenses incurred. Implementation of the MOU is contingent
upon action by the Attorney General to obligate funds from the Immigration Emergency Fund. The Attorney General also can approve the delegation of authority to state law enforcement officers to enforce immigration law during the mass migration.
A companion agreement outlining how state and local enforcement officers can help enforce federal immigration law has been drafted and will be executed with individual Florida law enforcement agencies following final implementing regulations that are expected to
be published in the Federal Register later this year.
INS has completed
an initial draft of the implementing regulation that is under
review at the Department of Justice.
Under the terms of the draft companion agreement, Florida law
enforcement officers would periodically receive immigration law
training in preparation to help enforce immigration law under
the direction of the INS only during an actual or imminent mass
migration as determined by the Attorney General.
Meissner emphasized that INS is
not aware of any information that indicates a mass migration event
is imminent. She also noted that the Attorney General's ability
to delegate federal authority in these situations is distinct
from the Attorney General's authority to do so in cases not involving
such an emergency.
"This MOU is the latest milestone
in a continuing effort to improve coordination of the overall
U.S. government response to mass migration events. It is an example
of responsible government in action and demonstrates that contingency
plans are in
place to deal with such an emergency
whenever it might occur," Meissner said. "This signing
recognizes the work accomplished to date, ratifies the procedures
for coordinated response operations, and reaffirms the commitment
INS and the State of Florida have made to continue the process."
Meissner said the agreement "clearly
shows that INS is continuing to carry out its responsibility as
the lead federal agency in planning for and responding to any
emergency created by a mass migration. I thank Governor Chiles
and the State of Florida for their continuing support to the planning
Chiles called the MOU a landmark
agreement, and said he was pleased with the cooperation from INS
and Commissioner Meissner. "Four years ago, I declared a
state of emergency in South Florida," Chiles said. "Today,
I'm declaring victory because the federal government will assume
full responsibility for future mass migration response operations."
The MOU, the culmination of a two-year
planning effort with the State of Florida, is a key element in
the ongoing effort by the Department of Justice and INS to develop
and implement a comprehensive federal response to any mass influx
of aliens within the state. The effort has included the development
of an operational plan to address mass migration events and a
series of exercises designed to test the viability of that plan.
The largest of those exercises,
which involved several hundred personnel from INS, the Coast Guard,
the Public Health Service, and state and local authorities, was
held in February of 1997 and clearly demonstrated that the federal
government has increased its readiness and renewed its commitment
to respond promptly to control mass illegal immigration into Florida.
While U.S. policy to interdict migrants at sea and process them
offshore remains unchanged, this plan provides a mechanism for
apprehending and detaining those aliens who evade interdiction
and arrive on our shores in violation of federal law.
Today's MOU is a significant step
in formalizing and improving the planned federal response and
ensuring cooperation with the State of Florida, but is by no means
the end of the road. Subsequent planning efforts, to begin this
fall, will address other joint INS and state concerns regarding
mass migration issues. Under the terms of the MOU,
INS is responsible for:
- Functioning as the lead federal
- Providing immigration law training
to state and local law enforcement officers designated to enforce
- Coordinating utilization of resources
and personnel to support an operation; and
- Coordinating the reimbursement
of the state and local governments for support provided at INS'
In support of the federal operation,
the state will:
- Provide operational support,
at its discretion, as requested by INS;
- Serve as a coordinator between
its political subdivisions and INS;
- Provide law enforcement and logistics
support, at its discretion, to the federal mass migration response
operations as requested by INS; and
- Maintain law and order within
- INS -
Last Modified 10/19/1998