Punishing the Police for Following the Law

According to multiple media outlets, a Washington State Patrol (WSP) Trooper has been placed under administrative review after he called U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to report Armando Chavez Corona, a previously deported felon, he encountered when responding to a traffic accident.  Allegedly the WSP is attempting to determine whether the trooper violated an internal policy barring cooperation with ICE.  In reality, a conscientious police officer is being punished for attempting to enforce the law.

Sanctuary zealots, the state of Washington chief among them, maintain that state and local jurisdictions are barred by federal law (see Arizona v. U.S.) from participating in any aspect of immigration law enforcement. They also argue that, pursuant to the 10th Amendment, they have no obligation to provide any form of assistance to the federal government in its efforts to enforce immigration law. However, these are inaccurate and disingenuous arguments.

Because the Constitution assigns responsibility for regulating immigration exclusively to the federal government, states are prohibited from passing their own laws indicating who may or may not enter the United States. However, neither the Constitution nor any federal laws, prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from sharing information with federal immigration authorities. In fact, they are required to do so.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, section 434, blocks state and local governments from imposing any prohibition or restriction on a state or local government entity that prevents it from sending or receiving information, to or from federal immigration authorities, regarding the “immigration status” of an individual.

Similarly, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, section 642, prohibits any restriction on a federal, state, or local governmental entity or official’s ability to send or receive information regarding “immigration or citizenship status” to or from federal immigration authorities. It further provides that no person or agency may prohibit a federal, state, or local government entity from (1) sending information regarding immigration status to, or requesting information from, federal immigration authorities; (2) maintaining information regarding immigration status; or (3) exchanging such information with any other federal, state, or local government entity.

And while the 10th Amendment prohibits the federal government from commandeering state and local police agencies to enforce federal law, the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause prohibits the states from deliberately hindering federal authorities in the furtherance of legitimate federal objectives. In short, there is no constitutionally protected basis for disobedience of federal immigration laws with which a state government may disagree on mere policy grounds.

Maybe the state of Washington should be more concerned with protecting its citizens from the likes of Chavez Corona than persecuting law enforcement officers who work hard to protect the public. It is amazing how much effort, and taxpayer money, places like Washington and California are expending to shield lawbreakers from society’s protectors.

Matt O'Brien :Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.