Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Victor Tan Chen, PhD

Second Advisor

Gabriela Leon-Perez, PhD

Third Advisor

Charles Schmidt


Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is a federal agency that plays a large role in surveilling, apprehending, detaining, incarcerating, and deporting undocumented immigrants in the United States. Due to constraints on the number of ICE’s available personnel and resources, the agency relies on deputizing, or devolving to local law enforcement agencies the authority to enforce federal immigration policies. Prior to the 1990s, the enforcement of policies directed at controlling flows of undocumented immigrants was generally under the purview of federal law enforcement agencies and administrators, not state or local ones. The attacks on September, 11th 2001 represented a flashpoint, from which followed a series of significant policy changes that allowed for the possibility of local level law enforcement agencies to be folded into domains, such as anti-terrorism and homeland security- that were previously the realm of the federal government. Counties, municipalities, and localities could now choose to enter into agreements, like 287(g), with federal agencies like ICE to police undocumented immigrants and enforce federal immigration policy. This local-federal cooperation serves to multiply the scope and reach of ICE, as cooperating localities can have their law enforcement agencies function as proxies for ICE. Cooperation with ICE is voluntary and is typically either approved or rejected by local elected officials, like County Sheriffs.

This thesis seeks to shed light on possible reasons why a municipality, county, or locality would choose to cooperate with ICE by assessing which areas in the country have high rates of cooperation. This was done through obtaining large datasets from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), based in Syracuse University. This data contains nation-wide ICE arrest and detainer request records between 2002 and 2015. TRAC data provided information on hundreds of thousands of ICE arrest cases that involved an ICE Detainer. An ICE Detainer is an administrative hold that ICE can send to local jails, requesting the jail to keep an individual detained for an additional 48 hours if they are suspected of being undocumented so that ICE can intercept said individual. TRAC data was processed in SPSS, where descriptive statistics were run to show which localities chose to honor ICE detainer requests and at what rates they did. From these analyses, heatmaps were generated to show the geographic distribution of localities with high honor rates. Additionally, four localities were selected for more in depth case studies to help understand what sociological factors may have contributed to localities decisions to honor ICE detainers at high and low rates. Findings suggest that racial and ethnic demographic changes that decrease a white majority in a location, the concentration of certain industries that tend to employ migrant labor, and the partisanship of local officials and administrators may help explain why certain localities honor ICE detainer requests at high rates. Additionally, this research affirms claims from scholars of immigration enforcement that following 9/11, forms of local-federal cooperation aimed at hindering the settlement of undocumented immigrants happen at higher rates in the interior of the country, as opposed to in areas along the U.S Mexico Border by providing descriptive statistics and qualitative case studies of local level cooperation with ICE.


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