The stepped-up role of local police in immigration enforcement is having an unintended consequence – Latinos are more reluctant to call them for help, according to a new study.
Roughly 44 percent of Latinos in the survey said they would feel reluctant to call police if they have been victim of a crime because of a fear that authorities would use the opportunity to check on their immigration status or that of someone they know, said the study.
Moreover, 45 percent of Latinos expressed misgivings about contacting police with information about a crime because of fear that immigration status would become a focus, said the study, which was conducted by Lake Research Partners and sponsored by PolicyLink, a California think tank.
U.S.-born Latinos were among the respondents sharing the uneasy feelings about local police and immigration – and by extension, deportation. Of the 38 percent who said they feel police view Latinos with more suspicion since cooperation between local and federal authorities has risen on immigration enforcement, more than a quarter were born in the United States.
“These findings reveal one of the unintended consequences of the involvement of state and local police on immigration enforcement – a reduction in public safety as Latinos’ mistrust of the police increases,” authors wrote.
The report is called “Insecure Communities: Latino Perception of Police Involvement in Immigration Enforcement” and is based on a survey of 2,004 Latinos in Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and Phoenix.
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat, was planning a panel discussion about the report on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
The Los Angeles Times quoted Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, a Latino nonprofit civil rights organization based in Los Angeles, as saying: “This confirms what police experts have been saying for decades. We have to have policies that make it clear there will be a separation between local police and immigration enforcement.”
The Obama administration has overseen record numbers of deportations.
Immigration officials deported nearly 410,000 people in fiscal year 2012, which ran from October 2011 to September 2012. That marked a 40 percent increase from the number of people deported in fiscal 2007.
Many immigration advocacy groups and other critics of local police working closely with immigration agents say a key part of the rise in deportation is attributable to a nationwide fingerprint sharing program, Secure Communities, that alerts immigration officials to people who are here unlawfully.
Proponents of strict immigration enforcement, however, support close collaboration between local and federal authorities. They say that local police should not turn a blind eye to people who are breaking immigration laws just because they are federal.
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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