National Association of Attorneys General

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NAAG Assumes National Leadership of Executive Working Group on Prosecutorial Relations

Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter
Indiana Attorney General
Steve Carter
Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett
Pennsylvania Attorney General
Tom Corbett

Inaugural Meeting Highlights Immigration and Human Trafficking Challenges for Law Enforcement

We are honored to have been chosen by our colleagues within the Executive Working Group of Prosecutorial Relations (EWG) to serve as co-chairs for the next year. The EWG is comprised of principal representatives from NAAG, the National District Attorneys Association and the U.S. Department of Justice. The group was formed more than 30 years ago in an effort to increase cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies. The overriding purpose is to provide a forum for federal, state and local law enforcement to engage in open and candid discussions regarding areas of mutual concern. The chair of the EWG rotates among the three member organizations and it is currently NAAG’s turn to lead the group.

As co-chairs, we hope to lead the EWG in a positive direction, making the work of the group relevant and useful to all three member organizations that it serves. Part of our initial work will be to revisit the antiquated by-laws of the group in order to bring them up-to-date with the current activities and priorities of the group. In addition, we are in the process of institutionalizing a mechanism in which the EWG holds one of its three yearly meetings in conjunction with one of the national meetings held by the member organizations, increasing the opportunities for further legal analysis and understanding of complex legal issues. It is our hope that the EWG will continue to be a vibrant forum for federal, state and local law enforcement officials to discuss critical issues of public safety and to promote a continued increase in cooperation among the various levels of government.

On October 30, the first meeting during our tenure as co-chairs, we focused on two issues of increasing concern for Attorneys General: immigration and human trafficking. The meeting featured robust discussion among the three groups, as well as an opportunity to engage in dialogue with senior level executives at the Department of Justice, including the Acting Attorney General.

The NAAG contingent presented information on the current hot-button issues within our jurisdictions related to immigration and human trafficking, including the use by state police agencies of powers under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, codified at 8 U.S.C. § 1357(g), which provides state and local law enforcement with general powers involved in the routine enforcement of federal immigration laws. This broad enforcement authority can only be delegated to state and local law enforcement agencies through a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which effectively deputizes members of state or local law enforcement agencies to perform the “function[s] of an immigration officer.” 8 U.S.C. § 1357(g).

The local perspective on these issues included discussions related to the potentially negative impact local law enforcement of federal immigration laws might have on cooperation with law enforcement in the immigrant community, as well as the increased victimization within those communities. One presentation of particular note examined how Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler partnered with the Baltimore City State’s Attorney and the U.S. Attorney to form a Human Trafficking Task Force.

Another unique cooperative approach by federal law enforcement included Operation Innocence Lost, a joint effort between the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Department of Justice. Started in the spring of 2003, this nationwide initiative seeks to establish partnerships among federal, state and local law enforcement to identify victims of human trafficking (particularly child victims of interstate sex trafficking in the United States) and provide services to these victims, as well as prosecute offenders. Research statistics indicate that the Southwest border is a critical area of concern for federal immigration officials with 97 percent of illegal immigration migration coming through this area.

The next meeting will be hosted by EWG member and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers on January 18, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The main focus of the discussion will be computer crime. Public corruption will lead items for discussion at the May meeting of the group, which will conclude NAAG’s rotation as chair.

We look forward to our leadership role within the EWG in the coming months and the opportunity to work with federal and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies to make our communities safer.

NAAG Criminal Law Counsel Nick Alexander also contributed to this article.

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