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Immigration Law Enforcement in the US

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Immigration enforcement issues have continued to grow in complexity and intensity over the recent several years. These debates have stemmed from legal battles, state’s rights, and Department of Homeland Security jurisdiction over immigration enforcement. Questions continue to swirl. Who is an illegal alien? Who can detain illegal aliens? When can they be deported?, among other questions surrounding this thorny issue of immigration enforcement.

Discussion

An illegal alien as contained in title 18 Section 1325 of the US code is a person who enters or even attempts to enter the US territory at any time or place different from the legally designated ones by the immigration officers. An illegal alien includes a person who eludes inspection or examination by an immigration officer at the point of entry. Also, a person who attempts entering the US or obtains that entry by willfully false and misleading representation or through concealment of relevant material fact is by the federal law considered an illegal immigrant (Agostino & Martin, 2009). The offense is punishable by imprisonment of up to six months and criminal fines. However, a repeat offender can attract an imprisonment of up to two years. The immigration judges are also at liberty to charge additional civil fines to the illegal alien.

On the issue of detainment of these illegal aliens, the federal government is primarily responsible for the detainment of illegal immigrants. The task is especially handled by a federal law enforcement agency; immigration and customs enforcement (ICE). The agency operates under the Department Of Homeland security (DHS). However, recently, individual states have implemented legislations for apprehending and detaining illegal immigrants such as the Arizona state. However presently, only a few local authorities have actually implemented the procedure and the primary burden of detaining illegal immigrants is left in the hands of the federal government.

On apprehension, the present bureaucracy in the department of justice has so far been allowing illegal aliens to remain in the system while the system investigates the cases. The illegal aliens are supposed to be deported after facing detainment or after cases are heard. Due to the increased costs to the federal government in the US, the government is considering the fast deportation of illegal immigrants to reduce the cost to state through the department of homeland security.

Since the local authorities and states bear the principle task of both defining and prosecuting crimes, they bear the biggest responsibility in dealing in issues relating to immigration enforcement in the US. State officials have also authority of enforcing some state laws beyond the state ordinances and laws especially those laws relating to criminal matters. Currently the state organs have civil provisions playing support roles to the federal organs. Traditionally, local authorities are entrusted with the enforcement of the criminal provisions (Kutasi, 2005).

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is an investigation agency in Homeland Security department. The agency is entrusted with the enforcement of immigration laws relating to the federal union according to its role in the department of homeland security. The ICE in its role works in association with the state and law enforcement partners and the federal law enforcement agencies in a mission to enforce federal immigration laws. In one of its programs, the ICE allows local authorities and state law enforcement organs to enter into a partnership under a joint Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The local authorities or state agency then receives delegated authority so as to enforce authority for immigration within their areas of jurisdiction (Savona & Mignone, 2004). The agency runs updates as its priorities are set, for example the present priority of the ICE in the department of homeland security is the arrest and detention of criminal aliens in the US.

In the evaluation of the ability of the federal government to adequately enforce the immigration policy in the US, many observers seem to agree that the federal government lacks adequate resources for enforcement of the immigration law. Such observers seem to agree that state and local enforcement authorities should be called upon in the enforcement. Such input by the state and local authorities have been introduced to the 108th congress including the clear law enforcement for criminal alien removal act and also the Homeland Security enhancement act both of 2003. Both are aimed at enhancing the enforcement of immigration law through enhancement of roles of these state and local officials.

Conclusion/ Recommendations

Several changes are available that can effectively change the ability of the homeland security to enforce immigration policy. Border management remains key in enforcement of the immigration laws in the US. The case research recommends the border management especially to be concentrated on the US Mexican border to act as a cost effective prevention strategy rather than costly implementing apprehension, detaining and removal of illegal alien immigrants. The strategy of “hold the line” not only eliminates the costly process of arresting, imprisoning and deporting illegal immigrants but also eliminates the traditional cycle of voluntary return followed by reentry which has characterized the illegal border crossing. Also, increased resources in immigration law enforcement are required. The resources include monetary and manpower.       

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