STUDY: Fearing Deportation, Latinos Don’t Report Crimes

A new study released reveals that Latinos are less likely to report crimes to the police because they are afraid of being asked of their immigration status. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago shed light on the lack of public trust that Latinos have in public enforcement officials, and how public safety levels decreased as an indirect consequence of police involvement in immigration affairs.

The survey included 2,000 Hispanics from Phoenix, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston wherein 44 percent of all Latinos surveyed were unlikely to contact police if they are targets of a crime. Forty-five percent of the same participants also indicated that they were unlikely to report crime. That number shoots up to about 70 percent of undocumented Latino immigrants who indicated that they would neither file a police report for being a victim nor for being a witness. Instead 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,” about 70 percent of undocumented immigrants are more likely to tell their church or community leader, which suggests that “lack of trust centers on local law enforcement authorities and not on community institutions or public figures in general.”

Long a primary target of immigration raids, Latinos feel disconnected from police officers who swear to protect them, but instead take on immigration enforcement duties when tasked to help. In the short term, growing suspicion by Latinos makes crime more difficult to solve, while the long-term consequence makes them generally fearful of law enforcement authorities.

Deportations have increased 40 percent in 2012 from when President Bush left office. Some cities like Austin are protecting immigrant victims by prohibiting law enforcement officials from inquiring about their immigration status. Colorado took similar measures to repeal a state law that required police to alert federal authorities during arrests when they suspected that the person was undocumented. Yet such amendments were put in place because the widespread mistrust and subsequent under-reporting of crime that immigrant communities face was jeopardizing public safety.