Why Undocumented Immigrants Are Terrified To Report Crimes, And How One City Is Fixing That

As leaders in some localities, like Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County, Arizona are trying to make undocumented immigrants’ lives as inhospitable and miserable as possible, the city of Dayton, Ohio is trying to aid those immigrants if they become victims of crime.

This week, the Dayton City Commission approved $30,000 in funding to reach out to undocumented immigrants when they fall prey to crime. Because of their legal status, many migrants are understandably afraid to involve law enforcement if a crime is committed against them.

The Dayton Daily News has more:

“If individuals are undocumented, there is a significant deterrent for them potentially to report crime,” Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said. “As I’ve said many, many times, if you want crime to grow in a community, just have people too afraid to report it.”

Federal law provides “U-Visa” status for some undocumented immigrants who are victims of crime. If the victim helps law enforcement authorities investigate and prosecute the offender, they can apply for a U-Visa, which grants four years of lawful immigration status, plus the ability to apply for permanent residency. […]

“We had an individual about a year or so ago brutally beaten and literally left for dead, who was undocumented,” Biehl said. “The reason this was reported is … the person literally had to crawl to the door of a house to call for help.”

U visas were created in the 2000 re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act. However, not enough has been done to assuage immigrants’ fears and make them comfortable enough to report crimes. Between 2000 and early 2011, just 18,654 crime victims came forward and received U visas, a fraction of the crimes committed against the 14 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country. Federal law currently caps the number of U visas that can be issued annually at 10,000, but that limit has been debated in the current Violence Against Women Act re-authorization push. This week, the Senate voted to re-authorize the law, but it continues to face roadblocks in the Republican-led House.


The city of Dayton, led by Republican Mayor Gary Leitzell, has built a strong reputation in the past couple years as welcoming to immigrants, particularly those fleeing states with harsh new anti-immigrant laws. Immigrants, Leitzell said, bring “new ideas, new perspectives and new talent to our workforce. … To reverse the decades-long trend of economic decline in this city, we need to think globally.”