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Ca Doj Responsibilities Law Enforcement Under Secure Communities Dec 2012

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12/04/2012 13:42 FAX



Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General
California Department of Justice
Larry Wallace, Director, Division of Law

Responsibilities of Local Law Enforcement Agencies
under Secure COnuJlunities


Larty Wallace. Director. Division of
Law Enforcement


TO: Executives of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies

The California Department of Justice (CalDOJ) and the Office of the Attorney General have received
inquiries about state and local law enforcement responsibilities under Secure Communities, a federal program
administered by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (lCE) of the United States Department of
Homeland Security (DHS). These inquiries have included whether local law enforcement must fulfill a
federal detainer request even if that agency determines that fulfilling the request would not be consistent with
public-safety priorities or the best use of limited local law enforcement resources; and whether a local law
enforcement agency may adopt guidelines for fulfilling federal detainer requests. To provide needed clarity
on these matters, this b1,llletin;
• Provides information on the purpose and operation of the Secure Comm'!llities program;
• Outlines the responsibilities of state and local law enforcement agencies regarding custody of unlawfully
-----present-immigrants-subject-to-federal detainer requests;
• Clarifies that individual federal detainers are requests, not commands, to local law enforcement
agencies, who make their own determination of whether to use their resources to hold suspected
unlawfully present immigrants; and
• Determines that the Secure Communities program does not prohibit local law enforcement agencies
from adopting a protocol governing the circumstances under which they will fulfill federal detainer

What is Secure Communities?
DHS implemented the Secure Communities program as a way to identify, detain, and remove from the United
States unlawfully present .immigrants who have been convicted of a crime and those who pose a threat to .
public safety. The program does not require California law enforcement agencies to determine an individual's
immigration status or to enforce federal immigration laws.
Secure Communities works when fingerprints taken by state and local law enforcement agencies are sent to
CalDOJ to positively identify the arrestee and to check his or her criminal history. In addition to checking its
own records, CalDOJ forwards the fingerprints to the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services division to
search for federal and out-of-state arrest, warrant, and conviction history-an action that is essential both for
officer safety and to identify and detain fugitives who may have fled other jurisdictions. Under the Secure
Communities program, the FBI forwards the fingerprints to DHS to be checked against immigration and other
databases. DHS then sends the immigration response, if any, to the FBI, which sends it, along with any
criminal hiStory information, to CalDOJ, which generally delivers all the information to the requesting law
enforcement agency.

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.If fingerprints match an immigration record, ICE evaluates whether to take action. In deciding how to
respond, ICE has purponed to use a risk-based approach that classifies arrestees into levels, beginning with
those who have serious prior convictions and those who present the greatest threat to public safety, which it
has described as a "worst first" approach. If ICE chooses to assume custody of a detainee, it sends an
"Immigration Detainer - Notice of Action" (DHS Form 1-247) to the jailor asking that the jailor hold the
individual for up to 48 hours after he or she would otherwise be released to give ICE time to complete its
evaluation or to take the person into immigration custody. Unlike arrest warrants and criminal detainers,
however, immigration detainers may be issued by border patrol agents, including aircraft pilots, special
agents, deportation officers, immigration inspectors, and other employees of ICE, without the review of a
judicial officer and without meeting traditional evidentiary standards.

What Responsibilities Do State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies HfSlle under Secure Communities?
As explained above, the SecUre Communities program does not require state or local law enforcement officers
to detennine an individual's immigration status or to enforce federal immigration Jaws. Under the Secure
Communities program, anyone who is arrested is automatically screened for immigration violations when his
or her fingerprints are sent to the FBI to check for federal and out-of-state criminal history. And while the
results of the immigration search generally are returned to the arresting law enforcement agency along with
any criminal history, ICE alone evaluates whether to take immigration enforcement action based upon the
facts of each case.

Are Local Law Enforcement Agencies Required to FUlfill Individual ICE Immigration Detainers?
No. Local law enforcement agencies in California can make their own decisions about whether to fulfill an
. individualICE.immigration.detainer. After analyzing the public-safety risks presented by the individual,
including a review of his or her arrest offense and criminal history, as well as the resources of the agency, an
agency may decide for itself whether to devote resources to holding suspected unlawfully present immigrants
on behalf of the federal government.
Several local law enforcement agencies appear to treat immigration detainers, sometimes called "ICE holds,"
as mandatory orders. But immigration detainers are not compulsory. Instead, they are merely requests
enforceable at the discretion of the agency holding the individual arrestee. (See ICE Website, available at ["Secure Communities imposes DO new or additional requirements
on state and local law enforcement'l) We reach this conclusion both because the 1-247 form is couched in
non-mandatory language and because the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reserves power to the
states to conduct their affairs without specific mandates from the federal government. Under the Secure
Communities program, the federal government neither indemnifies nor reimburses local law enforcement
agencies for complying with immigration detainers. (See 8 C-F. R. § 287. 7( e).) Under principles of
federalism, neither Congress nor the federal executive branch can require state officials to carry out federal
programs at their own expense. If such detainers were mandatory, forced compliance would constitute the
type of commandeering of state resources forbidden by the Tenth Amendment. (frintz v. United States
(1997) 521 U.S. 898, 925 ["The Federal Government ... may not compel the States to implement, by
legislation or executive action, federal regulatory programs"]; New York v. United States (1992) 505 U.S. 144,
161 ["the Constitution has never been understood to confer upon Congress the ability to require the States to
govern according to Congress's instructions"].)
In a time of shrinking financial resources, a growing range of critical public-safety priorities, limited space for

housing prisoners, and layoffs of police officers and sheriffs deputies, it is appropriate that California law
enforcement agencies that receive immigration detainer requests consider them carefully and determine what


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course of action best protects public safety in light of the facts of each case. All efforts must be made to
identify, detain, and remove from the United States unlawfully present immigrants who may be dangerous,
pose a public-safety risk, or have been convicted of offenses of a serious or violent nature. Any action to the
contrary could pose a great risk to public safety.
Does the Secure Communities Program Prohibit a Local Law E"forcement Agency from Adopting a
Protocol Governing ItS Response to ICE Immigration Detainers?

No. Immigration detainer requests are not mandatory, and each agency may make its own decision about
whether or not to honor an individual request. Accordingly, local law enforcement agencies may establish a
protocol to assist them in determining how to respond to a federal request to hold, at the local agency's own
expense, suspected unlawfully present immigrants with minor or no criminal history, so long as any such
protocol gives primary consideration to protecting public safety in determining whether to honor a detainer

Local agencies are best positioned to determine the highest use of local resources, and if the local law
enforcement agency determines that releasing certain individuals does not present a risk to public safety, a
federal detainer request cannot, by itself, reverse that determination.