Policing Immigrants: The Local Dilemmas of Immigration Enforcement
This research examines how multiple levels of government bureaucracy respond to and interact with immigrant communities, through a case study of the 287(g) program in Nashville, Tennessee. The 287(g) program allows local law enforcement agencies to enter into agreements with the Department of Homeland Security to receive training to enforce immigration laws. Relying on interviews and ethnographic observations with members of the police and sheriff’s department, and immigration advocacy groups, this work shows that deportation is the result of mundane decisions made by street-level bureaucrats.
This project makes three contributions to immigration research. First, it contributes to the growing body of literature on the devolution of immigration enforcement authority from the federal government to state, county, and city agencies and employees. Consequently, it approaches the topic of immigration enforcement by disaggregating national policy into its component parts, examining how actors in multiple sectors of government participate in and transform immigration policy outcomes. Second, it draws on bureaucratic theory to examine how (or if) police officers who arrest immigrants for violating state laws, and sheriff‘s office employees who screen those arrested for immigration violations, deploy administrative discretion in their work. Lastly, it contributes to research on emerging immigrant destinations by asking how local bureaucracies in those places incorporate immigrants. It shows that 287(g) is part of a national strategy to funnel people into removal proceedings and although it relies on county employees for implementation, these actors are incorporated and deployed as extensions of the nation-state.