Immigrants afraid of cops E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   

For years there's been tremendous debate about whether draconian, "get tough" immigration enforcement by local law enforcement is good for public safety or not. The answer generally depends on what's more important to the individual you're talking to- illegal immigration violations or traditional public safety. For the immigration hard-liners a policy's impact on overall public safety is a secondary concern to the symbolism, however ineffective or costly it may be, of laws like Arizona's SB-1070. But if you're interested in whether those policies make immigrants, undocumented or not, more or less likely to report crimes the data is clear.

A new report presents findings from a survey of Latinos regarding their perceptions of law enforcement authorities in light of the greater involvement of police in immigration enforcement.

Lake Research Partners designed and administered a randomized telephone survey of 2,004Latinos living in the counties of Cook (Chicago), Harris (Houston), Los Angeles, and Maricopa County.(Phoenix).

The survey was designed to assess the impact of police involvement in immigration enforcement on Latinos’ perceptions of public safety and their willingness to contact the police when crimes have been committed.

The survey was conducted in English and Spanish by professional interviewers during the period November 17 to December 10, 2012. Survey results indicate that the increased involvement of police in immigration enforcement has significantly heightened the fears many Latinos have of the police, contributing to their social isolation and exacerbating their mistrust of law enforcement authorities.

Key findings include:

• 44 percent of Latinos surveyed reported they are less likely to contact police officers if they have been the victim of a crime because they fear that police officers will use this interaction as an opportunity to inquire into their immigration status or that of people they know.

• 45 percent of Latinos stated that they are less likely to voluntarily offer information about crimes, and 45 percent are less likely to report a crime because they are afraid the police will ask them or people they know about their immigration status.

• 70 percent of undocumented immigrants reported they are less likely to contact law enforcement authorities if they were victims of a crime.

• Fear of police contact is not confined to immigrants. For example, 28 percent of US-born Latinos said they are less likely to contact police officers if they have been the victim of a crime because they fear that police officers will use this interaction as an opportunity to inquire into their immigration status or that of people they know.

• 38 percent of Latinos reported they feel like they are under more suspicion now that local law enforcement authorities have become involved in immigration enforcement. This figure includes 26 percent of US-born respondents, 40 percent of foreign-born respondents, and58 percent of undocumented immigrant respondents.

• When asked how often police officers stop Latinos without good reason or cause, 62percent said very or somewhat often, including 58 percent of US-born respondents,64 percent of foreign-born respondents, and 78 percent of undocumented immigrant respondents.

But despite the fact that immigration form the south is at net zero and does not look like picking up anytime soon as the result of the jobs crisis, as well as recent decisions in federal court against Maricopa County Sheriff and anti-immigrant crusader Joe Arpaio, you can be sure that illegal immigration will always be the most pressing public policy issue for some regardless of the numbers.


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