Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal


Abby Sullivan


This note explores racial profiling in the enforcement of federal immigration law. In consistently deferring to the judgment of immigration officers, the United States Supreme Court has vested Immigration and Customs Enforcement with broad and sweeping discretion to adopt racist law enforcement practices that would be impermissible outside of the immigration context. In doing so, the Court has taken the erroneous position that immigration proceedings are purely civil and therefore do not require the procedural protections that collectively form the pillar of the criminal justice system. A myriad of studies demonstrate that immigrants are significantly less likely than their American-born counterparts to commit crimes. Yet pervasive anti-immigrant sentiment has led to a false perception that immigrant status and criminality are correlated. In light of the official criminalization of immigrant status, flowing from both federal legislation as well as immigration law enforcement officers' abuse of their prosecutorial decision-making power, the Supreme Court should reverse its decisions allowing immigration officers to consider race in their law enforcement duties. Moreover, Immigration and Customs Enforcement should officially abandon its racial profiling policies, which disproportionately target immigrant families who pose no threat to national safety, in favor of enforcement guidelines that are consistent with its duty to protect homeland security.

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