Part I traces the historical roots of the relationship between local police and federal immigration authorities, beginning with the changes in enforcement strategy precipitated by the September 11, 2001 attacks and leading up to the launch of S-Comm. The federal government's increased reliance on local police to supplement its internal enforcement efforts has raised several Tenth Amendment concerns as the states struggle to define the proper scope of their "inherent authority" to act in immigration matters, with officials in some so-called sanctuary cities insisting that their inherent authority to enforce federal immigration law is commensurate with the sovereign right to refuse to cooperate.
Is opting out likely to succeed as a strategy for gaining the trust and cooperation of immigrants? Part II explores that question. Using the work of leading social psychologist Tom Tyler as a framework for discussion, I conclude that trust and cooperation are an outgrowth of individual perceptions of legitimacy. The quest for legitimacy, or those properties of a police department that "lead people to feel that [the department] is entitled to be deferred to and obeyed," has precipitated every major historical shift in policing, from the professional model to present-day community policing. These failed models and the promise of community policing are examined in Part III.
Ever since it emerged as the model of police reform in the late 1980s, community policing's imprimatur has been bestowed upon a myriad of outreach strategies, particularly those aimed toward improving the fractured relationship between police and minority communities. Tensions between police and minorities, fueled by decades of physical abuse and deceptive tactics, have contributed to an ethnic gap in the manner in which people view the police. Community policing represented a seismic shift in the police's approach to interacting with minorities, specifically in its prioritization of partnerships with affected communities and the solicitation of community input in shaping the department's enforcement agenda. The increased role of the community has fueled fears that the police, in seeking cooperation from various segments of the community, would ultimately become co-opted by the special interests of those highly vocal and politically active segments of the community.
In Part IV, I argue that the dangers of co-optation increase exponentially when community-generated expansions of police discretionary authority, like opting out, are involved. In the past, similar expansions of discretionary authority have received harsh criticism from those who insist that the use of discretion fragments communities by creating winners and losers. According to critics, the "losers" are typically minorities and other disenfranchised groups. In the case of non-enforcement of immigration law, when the "winners" are a historically disenfranchised minority group, it is easy and convenient to derisively dismiss opponents as xenophobic or racist. The competing interests, attitudes, and agendas that exist within communities and between minority groups are largely ignored. It is these differences that the police should consider when promulgating policies designed to improve their relationships with one segment of the minority community.