Breaking News! Feds Need State and Local Help to Enforce the Law

By Dan Cadman on May 28, 2015

FBI Director James Comey has solicited the help of state and local law enforcement agencies, including the New York City Police Department, in an effort to identify, track, and act against potential terrorists. No one seems to have noted the irony that this request comes at the same time the Obama administration is turning away such help with immigration enforcement.

Citing the recent near-miss terrorist attack in Garland, Texas, where identified national security threats slipped off the bureau's radar, Comey says the FBI simply doesn't have enough manpower to do the job itself. Needless to say, NYPD and other law enforcement officials are falling all over themselves to be of assistance.

What Comey says is undoubtedly true. There are dozens of federal agencies, some with broader, some with more narrow, missions, but none — not even the FBI — is either charged with or capable of enforcing the whole panoply of laws across the spectrum. That's because as a nation we have shunned the concept of a national police force just as surely as we have rejected national identity cards. Such things are repugnant to the American psyche, smacking as they do of Big Brother.

What's more, a national police force would be an intrusion on the inherent sovereignty of each of our 50 states. The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution says this: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

It seems clear that, from the very beginning, the founders of our nation envisioned a cooperative environment among and between states and the federal government over matters affecting the common good — including immigration. It is relevant to note that, for many years, state courts exercised the right to naturalize aliens into citizenship under guidelines set by Congress pursuant to its own constitutional role: "The Congress shall have Power To ... establish an Uniform Rule of Naturalization." In fact, prior to the opening of the federal inspection station at Ellis Island in the 1890s, it was the states that enforced the nation's immigration laws.

With all of this in mind, I can't help but note the difference in attitudes of state and local enforcement organizations toward assisting one federal agency (the FBI) while stiffing the federal agencies charged with immigration enforcement, primarily Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Can they not connect the dots? Do they see no nexus between uncontrolled immigration and national security perils? Or do they just get to be choosy in their philosophical reasoning and legal consistency about such things as aiding in enforcement of federal laws?