Several Cities—and the State of Colorado—Say No to the Border Police

Federalism can cut both ways.


A single tear runs down Sgt. Carter's cheek.
Holyoke Publishing

When it comes to immigration policy, the best-known clash between federal and lower levels of government is the recent battle over Arizona's infamous SB 1070, a law that intensified the border clampdown. And there have been plenty of other times a state or city has tried to be more heavy-handed in its immigration enforcement than the feds. But sometimes it's the more local jurisdiction that's less eager to crack down, as Emily Badger points out in The Washington Post:

Chicago doesn't cooperate. Neither does Philadelphia. Nor Baltimore, San Diego, Newark, Milwaukee, Miami-Dade or Denver.

One by one, these cities—soon to be joined by New York City—have passed resolutions or enacted new policies refusing to hand over immigrants detained by local police to federal officials for deportation. The strategy, gaining further momentum this year with a statewide law in Colorado, is one way local governments dismayed by a broken federal immigration system have found to undermine it.

At issue are what are called "immigration detainers." The federal government relies on local law enforcement agencies to help identify individuals for deportation. When local police come in contact with suspected immigrants (for reasons ranging from serious offenses to traffic violations), Immigration and Customs Enforcement often issue a detainer, asking local jails and prisons to hold them for 48 hours or more beyond their release to give the feds time to decide if they want to collect and deport them.

Badger mentions civil libertarian objections to the imprisonments, and she also notes fears that these detentions will undermine other sorts of police work. (People tend to be less likely to help a homicide investigation if they're afraid they'll be hauled in on immigration charges.) But the most important incentive that she identifies might be the financial one: "The federal government doesn't reimburse local agencies for resources they spend 'holding' suspected immigrants on ICE's behalf." Just as governors with no ideological objection to regulation can suddenly sound like fire-breathing libertarians when confronted with an unfunded mandate, ICE's orders can turn a moderate's thoughts toward defiance.

Bonus link: An earlier example of immigration-friendly federalism.

NEXT: Washingtonian Mag Ranks Congress: Amash 'Lobbyists' Worst Enemy'

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  1. Is this trend going to reverse the more recent arrivals the feds dump on local officials?

  2. Its weird. Cities that absolutely refuse to help the feds enforce immigration laws fall all over themselves to help the feds enforce drug laws.

    Its almost like there’s something about drugs laws but not immigrations laws that make cities want to get in on the WOD action. What could it be, I wonder.

    1. A lot of things. Two big ones though. First is money of course. The feds give all kinds of grants to fight the WOD. The second is that while the Progressive politicians who run these cities love throwing people in jail for drug offenses and showing their gentry liberal base how tough they are and how they are going to protect them from the scary white trash and brown people, enforcing immigration laws even on criminals is not as popular with them.

    2. Hitler?

      Wait – answering the wrong question…

    3. The local justice system must choose from the trifecta (Mexicans – Pot – Buttsex) which of these evils net the most gain into the intrusion in the lives of the serfs in their jurisdiction and net the most free toys and $ for their departments and union buddies.

    4. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that it costs money to deport someone, whereas imprisoning someone creates another customer and additional revenue for the prison industrial complex.

  3. or Denver.

    Maybe they’re too busy warrantless-raiding innocent peoples’ homes and trumping up false charges.

  4. So is the reason position now that even immigrants who commit crimes, no matter how serious, should be deported? If it is not that, then why does reason think this is a good thing? If an immigrant is convicted of a crime, goes to state prison and the states refuse to inform the feds or turn him over for deportation, then committing a crime effectively no longer gets you deported.

    1. So is the reason position now that even immigrants who commit crimes, no matter how serious, should be deported?

      *** scratches chin ***

      How about deporting *anyone* who commits crimes?

      1. We could get rid of a lot of politicians that way.

        1. We could get rid of a lot of politicians that way.

          I just had a moment. What a beautiful dream.

          1. Imagine if we brought back ostracism, even if only for public officials. We wouldn’t be talking about a Clinton running for office. Or a Bush. And Obama would already be an ex-president.

            1. “You say, ‘I break with thee, I break with thee, I break with thee!’, and then you throw ah-dog poopy on-ah their shoes.”

              /Two Wild And Crazy Guys

              1. Perhaps we should improve on the Athenians and vote on who doesn’t get ostracized.

      2. Because they have a legal right to be here and immigrants don’t. It comes down to whether you believe in collective soveignty. If you don’t, then you are right, no one should be deported for any reason and no one should ever be stopped at the border for any reason.

        If you do believe in sovereignty however, then the government has a right to decide who to let in and not letting in criminals sounds pretty reasonable.

        If a government can’t control its borders, I don’t see how it is a government anymore. I also don’t see where a government without that power has the power to engage in any sort of defense. If it can’t stop me from inviting a Mexican laborer onto my land, why can it stop me from inviting an army there as well? Sure maybe it can try and arrest the army if it starts trespassing and killing people. But until it does that, I don’t see how it can stop it from coming in, provided some landowner somewhere invited it.

        1. And by controlling its borders, do you include tariffs, money controls, exit visas, and other border controls?

          1. BTW, I am serious about this hypocrisy. There’s no practical difference between high tariffs to prevent imports and keep US jobs, and forbidding immigration to keep US jobs. The spector of culture change is just as bullshit, since border controls can also keep out foreign food, equipment, and other non-American stuff. Once you admit one is reasonable, the other goes with it.

            1. The question isn’t about what’s reasonable, its about legal authority. The authority to control people or things coming into a country comes from property rights. The rightful owners of the borders and ports are the people who pay for them, ie the taxpayers. Since they own the property, they may set the rules for how and by who the property may be used. Now, some ways of using property are superior to others, but that doesn’t negate the property owners right to chose. As far as people or goods leaving, there is no authority to stop people from leaving their own property, therefore exit visas and taxes are illegitimate.

              1. The rightful owners of the borders and ports are the people who pay for them, ie the taxpayers. Since they own the property, they may set the rules for how and by who the property may be used

                Quick! Name a Port Authority that existed before the turn of the century.

                You can’t, as they were direct products of Progressive Era regulation over the “corruption” of privately-owned ports. Despite that, many privately-owned ports exist, though I’m sure the Government collects its vig.

                1. And you can read this .pdf for even more lulz-y description of the Bad Old Days

                  “When AAPA was formed, public port administration was in its infancy. Though public port agencies existed in a number of states and port cities, few, if any, actually owned or operated
                  marine terminals. Commercial ports were for the most part dominated by powerful railroad corporations, which owned the terminals and controlled access to harbor areas

                  The horror!

                  ” the period when AAPA was formed ? the so-called Progressive Era of American politics ? vigorous protest to the
                  railroad monopoly arose and crystallized in the form of “free
                  harbor” movements around the country. These sentiments underlay the decision to call the meeting in New York, where
                  they were articulated in a particularly forceful manner by Calvin Tomkins, who declared that ports were too important to be left to the unfettered whim of powerful corporations. Instead, he said, seaport terminals should be built with public funds and operated under public control to assure equal access to all carriers and shippers. The public, not unbridled private enterprise, should have the upper hand”

                  PORT NEUTRALITY!

              2. That’s the most I libertarian thing I’ve read today, nice irony given your handle. Even if these things are owned by ‘the people’ individual rights, like free movement of goods and people, can not be trumped by majority vote.

                1. Unlibertarian

              3. To echo Bo, this argument pretty much surrenders to the socialists. “Well it’s now the people’s property, so the people get to do with it as they will via the state.” Is that really the precedent you want to set?

          2. “And by controlling its borders, do you include tariffs, money controls, exit visas, and other border controls?”


            1. The people in power seem to disagree.

              1. The people in power disagree with me about 98% of the time. And they mostly botch or over do it when they do something agree with.

                1. Maybe we should try to reduce their power then?

          3. Tariffs don’t vote for the Democrats!

            Sadly that’s what I think it comes down to for some here.

    2. You’re jumping past the problem here, I think. It’s not the conviction that’s the issue be the detainment. That is, INS expects municipalities to keep these suspects in the local pokey until ICE gets around to visiting them to determine if what they were charged (charged, mind you, not convicted) with is a deportable offense. I’m guessing the reason why is that if it is a deportable offense, the INS wants, or needs, to make a Federal case out of it, so the G-Men need to be the ones leading, not the local yokels.

      1. They only need to make a federal case out of it if the person has a green card or the person is under some special circumstance such as they are an asylum seeker or from Cuba or an unaccompanied minor not from Mexico or Canada. If they are not that and don’t have a green card, the feds do expedited removal and stick their ass on a plane in a couple of days.

        What is happening here to a large degree is the Obama administration has just stopped enforcing immigration law and thus ICE never shows and the locals are stuck holding the bag paying to keep these people in jail.

          1. Yes. But hardly any of these guys have a valid visa. Also, if you have a valid visa you are not here illegally.

            1. The point isn’t legal vs. illegal immigration, the point is there are crimes in which for a legal immigrant the penalty is deportation. For example, my wife is a permanent resident; however, if she were successfully convicted on a domestic violence charge, she would be deported. Same goes if she were convicted for possession of a controlled substance.

              I suspect in these big cities with a lot of immigrant residents, international tourists, international students, etc. these types of crimes are common. Because of their immigration status, the Feds have added another level of headache for the local cops to deal with. Thus, we have this pissing match.

  5. “The federal government doesn’t reimburse local agencies for resources they spend ‘holding’ suspected immigrants on ICE’s behalf.”

    Oh, not to worry. Just tell the local authorities that they can also hold the detainees assets under any sort of suspicion and you will see these wayward counties change their tune very quickly.

    1. Jose’ only has the clothes on his back and a harmonica. Not helpful…:(


  6. “But the most important incentive that she identifies might be financial: “The federal government doesn’t reimburse local agencies for resources they spend ‘holding’ suspected immigrants on ICE’s behalf.” ”

    Who the fuck “reimburses” these local agencies for the millions spent on social welfare for these illegal, unemployed immigrants?

    1. And who accounts for the economic boost from hardworking illegals there?

      1. There is no “economic boost” when you have massive unemployment, and let illegals perform the jobs that legal citizens who collect unemployment benefits and welfare should be performing.

        1. But that’s a lie.

  7. One by one, these cities?soon to be joined by New York City?have passed resolutions or enacted new policies refusing to hand over immigrants detained by local police to federal officials for deportation

    Hey now, not to be outdone, Seattle just changed “Columbus Day” into “Indigenous Peoples Day”.

    1. “Nobody discovered Seattle, Washington,” said Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp

      OK ….

      1. I thought MLK discovered Seattle…?

    2. Does anyone actually care about Columbus Day?

      1. Government “workers”

      2. My kids get the day off from school – so they, and the teachers union must care!

    3. What have indigenous people ever done for me?

      1. Is this a Monty Python reference?

        1. Sort of, only no Romans.

      2. What have indigenous people ever done for me?

        They gave you America! Well, you pried it from their fingers, but still.

  8. Badger mentions civil libertarian objections to the imprisonments

    Badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger….

  9. I saw the headline and hoped the locals were dismantling the harrassment checkpoints that were nowhere near the border.

    Now I’m just sad. Thanks for getting my hopes up.

    1. I thought the same thing, but I should’ve known better. When did any of these people have a problem with the feds harassing people?

      1. Same comment.

    2. And eliminate good paying jobs?

    3. double ditto

  10. That sound you hear is conservative support for states rights melting.

    Also, great news. A War on the War on Unauthorized Immigration is part and parcel of the libertarian moment. More immigrants will be a boon to the economy of these cities, many of which are depressed, and will disrupt Big Labor arrangements where they need to be disrupted most i.e. Big Blue Cities.

  11. If libertarians hated the state and it’s elites as much as they hate the nation and it’s peasants they’d actually be good for something.

    Too bad they don’t, and they aren’t.

    1. It’s hard to hate the state and love the border-control police state at the same time.

  12. This is why the US Constitution has a Supremacy Clause. If they choose to push it against these DEMOCRAT run cities, the Feds will win. It is just a matter of whether Obama has the political backbone. I doubt he does.

  13. Let’s create a libertarian paradise! Here’s the plan:

    Step 1) import tens of millions of reliable progressive voters
    Step 2) does it really matter what step 2 is? the plan is doomed to failure
    Step 3) move to Singapore

    1. whats that you say? You can’t just move to Singapore because Singapore has an actual, functional border? Oh well, I guess you are stuck in a Central American hellhole via step 1. Good luck with future plans!

      1. Here’s a really dumb plan for moving towards libertarianism:

        1. Identify people who you think will vote the wrong way, then limit their freedom of movement and freedom of contract.

        2. Anything that isn’t “repeal that fascist crap in Step One.”

        If you want to make it even dumber, define “vote the wrong way” as “fail to elect Republicans.” But the mere fact that you’re restricting people’s freedoms for their thoughtcrimes is…well, it’s pretty much what I’d expect of someone whose dream home is Singapore.

        1. Rather amusing to see you using “fascist” as a perjorative. Whatever else they may have done, Hitler and Mussolini would never have dreamed of handing away their countries out from under the feet of their countrymen.

          At least the Italians and the Germans survived the fascists. I suspect they wouldn’t do so well under the libertarians.

          1. Congratulations, Hawk. You have just reached self-parody and self-awareness at the same time.

        2. well, it’s pretty much what I’d expect of someone whose dream home is Singapore.

          The #2 country on the index of economic freedom isn’t some place a libertarian might wish to live?

  14. Elections are coming and this is already being used against Colorado’s governor. If the immigration system is so broken, why does no one fix it?

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