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Can Local Police Enforce Immigration Law?

7th Apr 2021

Immigration Law is a policy formed by the federal government to identify foreign countries entering the United States via standard airport arrival or any port of entry and the duration of their legal stay. Under this law holds the process of obtaining a Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR) or being a Green Cardholder.

Apart from this, the law is also responsible for non-citizens who illegally entered the country, extended their departure date, or falsified their documentations, to have them undergo immigration court hearing secondary to removal proceedings or deportation.

Secondary to this federal law, the United States Congress is given an exclusive right to enact the scope of immigration. However, according to HG Legal Resources, it is stated that state governments are restricted from the execution of the said law. Regardless of this rule, various states had passed laws that enable local police to legally investigate a non-citizen’s immigration status, which some find odd and confusing since it’s contradictory to the federal law.

The People Legally Behind the Immigration Law

When it comes to immigration, it is under the Department of Homeland Security of the United States Constitution. Under this department, three national agencies.

  1. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

ICE is a federal law enforcement agency that protects the country from beyond-the-border crimes and illegal immigration that may harm the United States’ safety and security. The agency is responsible for holding individuals who pose a national threat to the country and breaks the law.

  1. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

The USCIS is far too well-known amongst the three federal agencies. This is because they are the one who takes accountability for the immigration process of each foreign individual desiring to visit or live in the U.S. They are also responsible for fact-checking the applicants’ documents and keeping track of each immigrant’s departure date.

  1. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

The United States Customs and Border Protection is the most stand-out federal law enforcement agency for all the three DHS agencies in Immigration. The agency is responsible for being the front-runners in immigration since it is the one who organizes border control.

The Local Police: Can or Cannot Arrest?

George Coppolo, a Chief Attorney, stated that the federal law does not restrict local officers from arresting individuals who broke federal immigration laws, provided that the state law authorizes the arrest.

With this in mind, it is then through the law’s power that local officers can arrest suspected illegal immigration status or violations.


The bottom line is, in regards to the Immigration Law – the Department of Homeland Security and its agencies are the ones who are authorized to arrest unless the government gave the state a go-signal. This then proves the immigration scene in the United States being as strict as it can be. Therefore, non-citizens in the country continue to abide by the rules and regulations to dodge deportation scare or removal proceedings. For more information, ask an immigration lawyer in Houston or anywhere near you.

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