Immigration Enforcement Consequence: Latinos Fear the Police

Immigration Enforcement Consequence: Latinos Fear the Police


A new study by Lake Research Partners, PolicyLink and the University of Illinois, Chicago shows that police involvement in immigration enforcement is making Latinos reluctant to contact the police. The survey of 2,004 Latinos residing in Cook (Chicago), Harris (Houston), Los Angeles, and Maricopa (Phoenix) counties revealed that police involvement in immigration enforcement has heightened fears of law enforcement and has made them less likely to report a crime.

Local police have been involved in immigration enforcement since the 287(g) program was rolled out in 2002. Section 287(g) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 authorized the Attorney General (now Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security) to enter into agreements with local law enforcement, authorizing local authorities to “perform the function of an immigration officer in relation to the investigation, apprehension, or detention of aliens in the United States (including the transportation of such aliens across State lines to detention centers).”

Some of the key findings of the new study on Latinos and their perceptions of law enforcement involvement in immigration include:

  • 44% of Latinos indicating that they are less likely to contact the police if they have been the victim of a crime for fear of being asking about their immigration status or the status of people they know. When isolating just the undocumented from the sample, the percentage rises to 70% of Latinos being less likely to contact the police if they have been a victim.
  • 45% of Latinos surveyed agree with the statement: “I am less likely to report a crime to law enforcement officers because I am afraid the police officers will ask me or other people I know about our immigration status.”
  • 49% of Latinos are more likely to tell a church or community leader if they are a victim or a witness to a crime than to tell local law enforcement. For foreign born Latinos, the percentage who would tell a church or community leader instead of law enforcement rises to 54%, and the percentage for undocumented is even higher at 68%.
  • Latinos in Maricopa County (home of infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio) report being the least likely to contact police officers if they have been the victim of a crime for fear that they or people that they know would be asked about their immigration status (50%).
  • Knowing that local law enforcement is involved is involved in immigration enforcement does not make Latinos feel safer.
  • Latinos report feeling more disconnected from the police knowing that the police are involved in immigration enforcement.

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D – California) expressed her frustration with having the police involved in immigration enforcement in response to this study with a statement, “The results of this scientific survey clearly show that local police shouldn’t be in the business of enforcing our immigration laws. As the Los Angeles Police Department has said repeatedly, when immigrant and minority communities fear the cops who patrol their streets, fewer witnesses come forward and more victims choose to suffer in silence.  That makes all of us less safe.  We should end federal partnerships with local law enforcement, like the deeply flawed 287(g) and Secure Communities programs, while Congress works to overhaul our broken immigration system.”

287(g) is being phased out and replaced with Secure Communities, a cheaper alternative that permits the federal government to inspect the arrest databases of local police and request that people be detained remotely. Secure Communities (also known as S-Comm) has been credited with helping the Obama administration reach record breaking deportation numbers.

Image Credit: NDLON, to view full infographic, click here.