Blurring the Lines: A Profile of State and Local Police Enforcement of Immigration Law Using NCIC Database
Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States Department of Justice has sought to engage local police in the systematic enforcement of routine civil immigration violations, marking a sea change in immigration and local law enforcement practices. The Department has justified this new policy as a critical element of its counter‐terrorism programs and an important “force multiplier” for its immigration enforcement operations. As part of this effort, thousands of civil immigration records have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) system used primarily by police around the country to exchange criminal history information and to identify individuals with outstanding warrants.
The newly established NCIC Immigration Violators File (IVF) now includes records regarding three immigration offenses: (1) persons previously convicted of a felony and deported; (2) persons allegedly subject to a final deportation, exclusion, or removal order (“absconders”) but who remain in the country; and (3) persons allegedly in violation of a requirement of the National Security Entry‐Exit Registration System (“NSEERS violators”). Now, an immigration “hit” occurs when a name and other identifying information entered in an NCIC query returns a positive response. The Bush Administration also announced plans to enter additional immigration records into the IVF, including those relating to alleged student visa violators, although it later signaled ambivalence about such an expansion.
Earlier this year, in partial settlement of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released data about use of the NCIC immigration records by state and local police forces from 2002 to 2004. This report provides the first public glimpse of how the NCIC policy has affected on‐the‐ground policing strategies across the country and which immigrant groups have been most heavily impacted.