June 23, 2004
By James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
As the hearings of the 9/11 Commission have reminded us, it's
time to place a much higher priority on improving our ability to
fight terrorism here at home - to stop terrorists before they
launch their deadly attacks. This means more law enforcement. But
it also means smarter law enforcement that not only protects
citizens from attack but respects their civil liberties. To do
that, we must re-evaluate the roles and responsibilities of
federal, state and local authorities.
Consider the issue of immigration. We have long resisted using
state and local law enforcement officers to enforce federal
immigration law. Communities want their officers working on local
crime. They fear that pitting local cops against immigrants would
discourage the immigrants from reporting crime, thus leaving them
more vulnerable to criminals in their own communities.
But, in light of 9/11 and subsequent events, do these concerns
still make sense? Don't all communities want terrorists rounded up
wherever they are? Don't even immigrant communities want law
enforcement to deal with the most dangerous among them?
About 40 million people come to the United States each year by
legal and illegal means. Most pose no threat to the country or its
citizens. On the other hand, all 19 of the 9/11 hijackers did pose
a threat and weren't detected. Future terrorists can be expected to
follow their path - to enter the United States by any means, then
hide in our communities, perhaps for years, before striking.
State and local police are far more likely to encounter people
bent on committing terrorist acts than are federal immigration
officials. (Maryland state police pulled over two of the 9/11
hijackers just two days before they struck.) They also have more
surveillance resources than the federal agencies that enforce
immigration laws have.
The federal government does not have the capacity to aggressively
pursue its existing caseload of immigration violations which
represent serious criminal and national-security threats. The
Department of Homeland Security can't even deport all the criminal
aliens released from federal and state prisons. With significant
budget increases unlikely for DHS, homeland security can't be
considered strictly a federal mission.
At the very least, in the normal course of criminal investigations,
state and local law enforcement should be permitted to cooperate
with federal immigration officials.
Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Naturalization
Act provides adequate authority for state and local
enforcement to investigate, detain and arrest aliens on civil and
criminal grounds. It requires that state and local officers receive
adequate training and operate under the direction of federal
authorities. And when state and local officers handle immigration
matters, they are considered to be acting under federal authority,
which means the federal government is liable in case of civil
lawsuits, not state or local governments.
A pilot program now under way in Florida could serve as a national
model for how to implement 287(g). In this program, select state
and local law enforcement officers were trained to assist in
immigration-related domestic counterterrorism investigations. This
move has increased fourfold the capacity of the Immigrations and
Customs Enforcement agency to investigate immigration violations.
In slightly more than a year, the program has led to more than 100
arrests - most for terrorism, but some for other crimes.
The agreement between Florida and Immigration and Customs
Enforcement holds that local officers be used only in the most
essential domestic counterterrorism investigations and that they
engage in these activities only when taking part in
counterterrorism operations supervised by ICE officers from the
DHS. It also requires that officers who participate in the task
force be American citizens with three years of law-enforcement
experience and at least an associate degree.
Once selected, officers undergo intensive training and must pass a
final competency exam. The agreement also establishes ways for
people to file grievances against the program and its
The success of the Florida initiative suggests three other steps we
could take right now to enhance state-federal counterterrorism
-The DHS could encourage other states to adopt programs based on
the Florida model;
-Congress could appropriate funds for the DHS to expand 287(g)
-States could use the Florida initiative as a model for expanding
their own domestic counterterrorism programs and improving
cooperation with federal authorities.
Let's take these common-sense steps now - before we have another
9/11 and another federal commission suggesting ways we can do
better in the war on terror.
James Jay Carafano, a 25-year veteran of the armed forces, is a
senior research fellow in defense and homeland security at The
First appeared on Foxnews.com
As the hearings of the 9/11 Commission have reminded us, it's time to place a much higher priority on improving our ability to fight terrorism here at home — to stop terrorists before they launch their deadly attacks.
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Vice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, E. W. Richardson Fellow, and Director
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