The Corner

The Feds & The Locals

From a reader:



Please don’t use my name in any post.  As a former federal prosecutor, I find it laughable that people are actually suggesting that local law enforcement officials have no role in enforcing federal law.  Not only do federal prosecutors rely on local agents to make federal cases — sometimes without using a single federal law enforcement official as a witness, the Department of Justice has specifically allocated funds through the Project Safe Neighborhood (firearms) and Project Safe Childhood (child exploitation) to recruit local law enforcement officials to bring cases to federal officials.  These are just two examples — there are others (e.g., drug cases, identity theft, etc.).  While local officials do not have the same obligation to enforce federal law as their federal counterparts, they are an important part of the enforcement mechanism, a fact that the DOJ likes to talk up when they are trying to encourage local officials to bring them cases.


Hi Jonah,

As long as I’ve lived in State College, PA (about 15 years), I’ve heard stories on the local news about PA State Troopers busting illegals along I-80. Some of the troopers are very good at this and develop some reputation. They typically look for expired plates, busted tail lights, traffic violations, etc. and end up arresting the folks and turning them over to the feds. Often, it’s a van filled with several illegals. I think some of the busts have occurred at rest stops where illegals were caught loitering. In all my time here, I’ve never heard a peep from anyone about how this might be profiling or discrimination. How is what’s going on in AZ substantially different from what I describe?

Update: From a reader:

Mr. Goldberg,

I think it’s a “field preemption” question.  Basically the Court can determine that Congress intended a field of law to be outside the purview of state government.  There also might be “implied preemption” where previous specific Federal legislation implied Congressional intent for its law to take precedent over any potentially conflicting state or local law.  These are pretty settled doctrines, but their application is spotty–and my understanding is that implied and field preemption aren’t preferred these days.

So with narcotics, the feds have obviously not intended to preempt local law enforcement, but with immigration they might have.


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