Limiting the Potential for Racial Profiling in State and Local Police Enforcement of Immigration Laws

by Jessica Saunders

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The passage of immigration enforcement laws, traditionally the purview of the federal government, by Arizona and other states raises the concern that state and local law enforcement agencies may engage in racial profiling when enforcing immigration laws. This paper provides an overview of the issues surrounding immigration enforcement at the local level, which is a relatively new phenomenon; describes several approaches for detecting racial profiling by police; and calls for the mandatory collection of data by law enforcement agencies so that these approaches can be used to monitor the implementation of state and local immigration enforcement laws to ensure that they are applied in a race-blind manner.

This Perspective was commissioned by the RAND Homeland Security and Defense Center, a joint center of RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment and the RAND National Security Research Division.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation perspective series. RAND perspectives present informed perspective on a timely topic that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND perspectives undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.