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Does federal law impact whether local government officials must coordinate with federal immigration officers concerning the immigration status of individuals?

April 2019

Given the current national debate, does federal law impact whether local government officials must coordinate with federal immigration officers concerning the immigration status of individuals?

Maybe. Federal law does not clearly mandate that local government and officials must coordinate with federal immigration officers. But federal law does not allow a local government or official to restrict any government or official from communicating with federal officers concerning the immigration status of individuals.

The current national debate centers around federal law, 8 USC § 1373, which states, “[a] local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, [federal immigration officers] information regarding the citizenship or immigration status . . . of any individual.”

The national debate became a state issue upon introduction of House bills 4083 and 4090 in January 2019. The bills were drafted with the intent to prohibit local governments and counties from adopting or enforcing policies that would restrict officials or officers “from communicating or cooperating with appropriate federal officials concerning the status of individuals.” Both bills were referred to the House Ways and Means Committee in early April with the recommendation they be adopted. The bills need to pass both the House and the Senate prior to becoming law.

Supporters of the bills argue municipal ordinances or policies which prohibit local officers from asking for information regarding an individual’s citizenship or immigration status violate § 1373. They argue prohibitions on asking for the information restricts local officers from sending such information to federal immigration agencies as permitted by federal law.

Conversely, opponents of the bills argue § 1373 is more narrowly drafted and the bills go well beyond the federal law. Opponents argue a local government’s ordinance or policy prohibiting local officers from asking an individual about their immigration status does not restrict an officer from sending information; rather, they argue if a local officer was to obtain the information through other means, the officer is not restricted to report such information.

The bills have not yet become law and thus how House bills 4083 and 4090 could affect townships is not yet clear,if at all. 8 USC § 1373, however, currently prohibits a township or township official from restricting or limiting a governmental entity (i.e., the township or related entities) or official from communicating with federal agents regarding citizen or immigration statute.

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