Federal legislation to improve the nation’s immigration system is taking a step forward this week, when the Senate Gang of 8 immigration bill goes into markup, but advocates today are reminding President Obama of the high cost of strict immigration enforcement and what he can do to alleviate the problem.
A new study from Lake Research Partners, commissioned by PolicyLink, released today found that current immigration enforcement policies have a negative impact on public safety. Their report, Insecure Communities: Latino Perceptions of Police Involvement in Immigration Enforcement, found that programs like Secure Communities that use local law enforcement agencies as proxies for immigration enforcement, lead to a growing mistrust of the police—and a disinclination to report crimes. Among the findings of the study:
- 44% of respondents reported they are less likely to contact police officers if they have been a victim of a crime for fear they or someone they know will be asked about their immigration status
- 45% of respondents indicated they are less likely to voluntarily offer information about crimes they know have been committed because they are afraid the police officers will ask them or someone they know about their immigration status
- 43% of respondents feel “less safe because local law enforcement is more involved in immigration enforcement”
- 38% of respondents feel afraid to leave their home because local law enforcement officials are more involved in immigration enforcement
As Dr. Nik Theodore, a University of Illinois-Chicago professor and the author of the study said:
The decision to enlist police in immigration enforcement has driven a wedge between police and Latino communities. The increased involvement of police in immigration enforcement has significantly heightened the fears many Latinos have of the police, leading to a mistrust of law enforcement authorities and a reduction in public safety.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), who will hold a panel discussion about the report on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, agreed:
This report highlights how local law enforcement’s greater role in immigration enforcement has created mistrust between the Latino community and local police, making all of our communities less safe from crime.