AILA Report on Immigration Enforcement

AILA urges DHS to follow its stated enforcement priorities.

ICE Off Target Report Cover

AILA's report, Immigration Enforcement Off Target: Minor Offenses With Major Consequences, challenges the claim made by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that it is focusing its finite resources on the "highest enforcement priorities" - namely those who present threats to public safety and national security.

The report's anecdotal accounts, 127 case examples from AILA members covering incidents in 24 states and the District of Columbia, are consistent with DHS's own data showing deportation of tens of thousands of individuals who have been picked up for minor infractions and who pose no threat to our communities.

The report questions whether federal immigration agents should respond to individual roadside calls by local law enforcement unless there are indications that the person poses a risk to public safety Immigration enforcement must be targeted, and by responding to referrals from local law enforcement in a largely indiscriminate manner, DHS is being diverted from its own stated priorities. In addition, the report raises concerns about the erosion of community trust, hindrances to community policing, and racial profiling.

AILA's recommendations to DHS:

  1. Establish screening mechanisms to ensure that enforcement priorities are followed and that finite resources are focused on individuals who pose a threat to our communities or our country.
  2. Do not issue detainers or initiate removal proceedings against individuals charged with or convicted of misdemeanor offenses unless they present a threat to public safety or national security.
  3. Establish systematic review mechanisms to ensure that in all cases, compelling equities weighing in favor of prosecutorial discretion are considered.
  4. Do not initiate enforcement action when an LLEA or police officer under investigation for racial profiling or other improper police practices is the referring source.
  5. Proactively consider ways in which DHS programs are vulnerable to abuse by LLEAs and implement preventive mechanisms nationwide.

Sample Cases:

  • In September 2009, Ms. A had just dropped her daughter off at school in California when she was pulled over for making a right turn on a red light. When the police officer saw Ms. A, he told her, "I know you are illegal," and questioned her about her immigration status. Although she did not admit to being out of status, the police officer contacted ICE and detained her at the roadside until an ICE officer could pick her up. She was issued a Notice to Appear (NTA) and released so that she could pick up her daughter, who is a U.S. citizen with learning disabilities, from school. Ms. A, who is from Mexico, was not charged or convicted of any crime and has no criminal history.

  • In April 2011 in Florida, Mr. B was driving to the pharmacy to pick up asthma medicine for his children when he was pulled over by the police. Two of his children, ages ten and 12, were in the car. The police officer gave no reason for the stop and ticketed Mr. B for driving without a license. The officer then called ICE from the roadside, and ICE agents came to pick up Mr. B. Mr. B asked to be allowed to stay at the car until his brother-in-law arrived to pick up the children, but ICE agents immediately took him into custody. The two children had to wait in the police car at the roadside for 35 minutes until the brother-in-law arrived. Mr. B has no criminal history apart from one prior conviction for driving without a license. He remains in immigration detention although he has three U.S. citizen children, ages three, ten, and 12; and his wife is unable to drive due to a major operation several years ago.

Additional Resources


AILA Press Statements

Memos & Forms

Reports & Studies

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 11081609.