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Police cooperation in internal enforcement of immigration control: learning from international comparison

Immigration, Crime and Justice

ISBN: 978-1-84855-438-2, eISBN: 978-1-84855-439-9

Publication date: 19 May 2009


Purpose – This is a comparison of the role of the police in the enforcement of immigration law in the interiors of three nations: Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Methodology – The study builds upon research the authors have already done as well as desk research on recent developments. It uses three dimensions of the problem to focus the report: the hardware, software, and culture of police involvement in this issue.

Findings – In Germany, the local police are responsible for the enforcement of immigration control and have relatively fast and reliable means to identify undocumented immigrants. This is not the case in the United Kingdom and the United States, but there are trends toward more local police involvement, both by institutional cooperation and by the development of better databases and documents for faster identification. These trends are highly controversial in an environment that values community relations and is highly sensitive to racial profiling. However, there are also indications that the differences in typical police work such as traffic controls and crime investigation may not be as pronounced as the differences between the countries would suggest.

Research implications – This study highlights the need for ethnographic work with the police and with unauthorized immigrants to empirically describe and assess the role that the police are playing and its impact on police–community relations.

Practical implications – The German experience supports the value of a comprehensive information system for rapidly determining the immigration status of suspects, but it may not work as expected in the United States and the United Kingdom, where registration and identification obligations apply to foreign citizens only. With the US and UK experiences, one could predict that discriminating identification practices may become more sensitive issues in a Germany with increasing numbers of immigrated citizens.


Vogel, D., McDonald, W.F., Jordan, B., Düvell, F., Kovacheva, V. and Vollmer, B. (2009), "Police cooperation in internal enforcement of immigration control: learning from international comparison", Mcdonald, W.F. (Ed.) Immigration, Crime and Justice (Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance, Vol. 13), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 205-241.



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