Latinos are scared to report crimes to local police who have the power to enforce immigration laws, says a new report. Forty four percent of Latinos — and 70 percent of undocumented Latinos — said they are less likely to contact police officers if they were victims of a crime, for fear that they or someone they know will be asked about their immigration status. The findings are part of a survey of over 2,000 Hispanics around Phoenix, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston, and the report, Insecure Communities: Latino Perceptions of Police Involvement in Immigration Enforcement, was commissioned by Policy Link, a progressive research and advocacy organization.
Almost half — forty-five percent — of Hispanics said they were less likely to volunteer information about a crime due to immigration fears, and almost four in ten said they felt under increased suspicion since local police have become more involved in immigration enforcement.
Moreover, 62 percent of Latinos said police stop Hispanics without good reason or cause “very” or “somewhat often.” This included 58 percent of U.S.-born Latinos, 64 percent of foreign-born Hispanics, and 78 percent of undocumented Latino immigrants.
Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), urged President Obama to end the Secure Communities program, in which local police submit fingerprints of persons who are arrested to immigration databases. Under the program, local police are also asked to detain individuals at the request of federal immigration authorities. Alvarado also urged Congress to separate police duties from immigration enforcement.
“Federal deportation policy doesn’t just destroy families, it is destroying public trust in law enforcement and, as a consequence, threatening everyone’s public safety,” said Alvarado in a statement. Alvarado, along with MALDEF’‘s Thomas Saenz and PolicyLink’s Chris Brown, will testify at a Congressional briefing on Wednesday on the report.
Angela Glover Blackwell, PolicyLink’s founder and CEO, stated that “if any of us are to be safe and secure, police must be able to be seen as public safety officers without being viewed as an entry point into deportation proceedings.”
Chris Newman, NDLON’s legal director, said it is not just immigration advocates, but officials in states such as New York, Illinois and Massachusetts, who have rejected Secure Communities programs, saying it deters public safety and erodes trust. Newman says that while passing comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship will have a positive effect on those who are legalized, “there are really astonishing harms caused by the administrative decision to expand Secure Communities – we have to take the deportation machinery out of the police squad car.”