Illegal Immigration Thesis

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Illegal Immigration

This study will seek to ascertain if the requirement to enforce immigration laws by local law enforcement agencies will be detrimental to society. The reasoning behind this hypothesis is that the federal government, along with a number of states, are passing laws that require local and state law enforcement agencies to take certain actions when confronted by situations that may include "illegal immigrants." A variety of problems can be predicted from this scenario. Predicted problems include; overcrowded jail space, an overwhelmed justice system, a reluctance on the part of immigrants to report crimes, emboldened criminals that will commit even more crimes, and more heinous crimes committed by the criminals.

The study's hypothesis is that local law enforcement agencies that are forced to assume new roles and duties in regard to enforcing federal and state immigration laws will experience internally lower morale, more confusion, and less cohesion, and externally; a higher crime rate, lower reporting of crimes involving both legal and illegal immigrants, longer response times to local crimes, and additional taxpayer expenses for more limited services.

The study's variables are that local law enforcement agencies are being pressured to "cross-deputize" their members in order to focus their law enforcement efforts on apprehending illegal immigrants. Many of the new state and federal laws are asking local police officials to determine who are the illegal immigrants.

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After they have determined the status of the immigrant, they are asked to arrest, confine and hold these individuals until they can be deported back to their country of origin. These actions cause the law enforcement agencies to make a decision as to whether they will accept these new responsibilities or reject them. If they are accepted, the local police officers are then cross-deputized and trained to find and arrest illegal immigrants.

Thesis on Illegal Immigration Assignment

Some local law enforcement agencies have balked at what they consider an effort to turn local police into federal agents, enforcing federal laws. They wonder why they have to focus their attention on fighting illegal immigration oftentimes distracting them from what their real purpose is, that of protecting local citizenry and providing service to the local community. Some police agencies have gone so far as to refuse to enforce these laws. The internal debates taking place throughout these agencies can cause divisiveness amongst the individual officers, confusion as to what is expected, lower moral, less cohesion and staffing problems.

Many of individual officers have feelings similar to Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter who decided not to cross-deputize his officers. His reaction to a new Utah law that asked local enforcement agencies to participate in cross-deputization was that it was not a focus he wished to place on his officers. "We're having a hard time staffing our shifts as it is," he said. And "this moves the criminal liability from federal officials to local law enforcement" (Smart, 2009).

Carpenter is not the only one to feel that way. Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds agrees with Carpenter and refused to cross-deputize his officers as well. Enforcing the new law is not something he takes lightly. He said that doing so "would erode trust within the immigrant community. They would fear calling law enforcement to report criminal activity" (Smart) and an additional fear of his is that "lawbreakers within that community would feel emboldened" (Smart). These perceptions on the part of law enforcement officials are not new, and they are an integral part of this study, they are part of the underlying reasons why many of these laws are looked at with askance in regards to local enforcement.

According to Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin, reporters for Phoenix's East Valley Tribune, there are at least three other direct negative effects to the change in focus on the part of local police units. Those three effects are: "people wait far longer for deputies to arrive at life-threatening emergencies. Detectives make arrests in far fewer criminal investigations. Taxpayers are spending millions of dollars to enforce federal immigration laws" (Gabrielson, Giblin, 2008).

The major variables to the study will look to determine whether the perception of police officers and the communities that they serve are positive, neutral or negative in regards to enforcement of illegal immigration and what effects those perceptions may have both internally and externally on the police officers and individuals in the communities.

Since this is a quantitative study, the study will look to measure the variables and the effects by quantifying perceptions with a point scale.

A questionnaire will be sent to a number of local police officers using a Likert Scale type instrument that will ask the respondents to read and respond to a series of statements by indicating whether they strongly agree (SA) agree (A) are undecided (U) disagree (D) or strongly disagree (SD). The positive statements will be valued at 5-4-3-2-1. Points will be totaled and a high total score across the positive statements will indicate an overall positive attitude (agreeing to the statements).

Since the study is seeking to determine hypothetical scenarios in regards to perceptions and the effects of those perceptions, it is necessary to point out that this is not a scientific study with resulting quantitative discoveries. The study is based on feelings, and though the researcher is attempting to quantify the results, the bias of many individuals will surely show through and will not necessarily by scientific in nature.

Literature review

A key issue for this study is who has the responsibility of responding to issues dealing with illegal immigration. A recent research report submitted to the Department of Justice found that "the federal government has primary responsibility for responding to these issues but cannot do it alone" (McDonald, pg. 21).

The report also found that "research suggests that state and local law enforcement are making an independent contribution to the effort against transnational criminality but are only willing to play a supportive and primarily criminal law enforcement role in dealing with immigration issues" (McDonald, pg. 21).

The reasoning for reluctance on the part of many of the state and local entities is due to the local nature of the enforcement issue. Many of the communities that these police officers work for count on the illegal immigrants for labor in the factories and in their fields. The citizens view the immigrants as integral parts of their community. Without these workers, the local economy may falter or fail causing financial hardships to everyone in the community, not just the illegal workers.

Another reason for the reluctance is that many state and local law enforcement officials take a dim view to enforcing federal laws that are deemed by many to be unenforceable. Not only are they difficult to enforce, but federal laws can be costly to local governments. Without federal funding to pay for the expenses, local governments sometimes have to foot millions of dollars in expenses for ongoing enforcement. These are expenses that have to be passed on to the local community. Many times the local citizens seek lower taxes and expenses, not higher, especially when they deem the money 'ill spent'

McDonald's report documented other reasons why local enforcement of federal laws can be detrimental.

He told those law enforcement agencies that decide to focus their efforts on apprehending illegal immigrants that "many Mexican-American citizens were offended at being questioned. They filed multiple lawsuits" (McDonald, pg. 20). Filing lawsuits has seemed like a national pastime during the past decade. Lawsuits can be expensive to defend against, time-consuming and deleterious to the communities that must suffer through them. It seems likely that the key question here does not concern the lawsuits (although they are the likely outcome of many of these scenarios) but does concern how police officials are trained in enforcing these laws.

Another example of lawsuits being filed en masse is when the police department of the city of Chandler, Arizona attempted to rid the city of illegal immigrants by rounding them up and deporting them in July, 1997. "The efforts of the police to rid the community of non-citizens unlawfully present in the U.S. led not just to deportations, but to the filing of a $35 million civil rights lawsuit against the city of Chandler brought by U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents" (Pendleton, pg. 2). The question that can be asked then becomes; how do police officers tell the difference(s) between an illegal immigrant and a legal citizen of foreign nationality?

This question is a much more difficult question than it used to be. According to McDonald, local and state law enforcement officials have nearly always been allowed leeway in stopping citizens who may have entered the United States illegally.

As early as the 1930's "in the southwest border states where large numbers of Mexican workers had entered legally and illegally, state and local law enforcement officials routinely held suspected illegal aliens for the INS" (McDonald, pg. 16). Another point was that as late as the 1970's many of those same agencies had policies to deal with illegal immigration. One policy was "to… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Illegal Immigration" Thesis in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Illegal Immigration.  (2009, April 22).  Retrieved April 14, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Illegal Immigration."  22 April 2009.  Web.  14 April 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Illegal Immigration."  April 22, 2009.  Accessed April 14, 2021.