Friday, June 22, 2007

In Nantucket, MA, Police Faced Immigrant Fear Of Contacting The Police

In a June 21, 2007 newspaper article in the Boston Globe by Michael Levenson titled "Suspects, victims immigrants all," the issue of immigrants being afraid to contact police in part due to fear of deportation arose again. On June 20, immigration agents and local police arrested 16 people and charged 14 of them with crimes such as assault, theft, credit card fraud, and other accusations. (Relatives of some of those charged believe the accusations are incorrect.)

Regardless of whether the charges are correct or not, Police Chief William Pittman commented on how when there are immigrant victims and witnesses, they often are afraid to come forward to talk to the police to help fight crime and protect the public's safety. According to the article, Mr. Pittman said "We ran into the old brick wall" and "there was just a hundredpeople standing around [to a crime] who were witnesses and yet nobody who saw a thing." It took several weeks of detectives visiting witnesses to get information. According to the article, potential witnesses were often afraid of being deported for talking to the police or else afraid of retribution from other immigrants.

Focusing for a moment on the fear of being deported for talking to the police, the news article suggests that it would be completely inappropriate for immigration authorities to deport someone that they find out about only because that person spoke with local police, where the local police concluded that person had nothing to do with committing any crimes. Unfortunately, deporting someone who merely spoke with local police and did not commit any crimes is exactly what Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Newark, New Jersey is working on doing in the case of a Brazilian man that came to ICE's attention when local police called them. Local police in NJ found out about the man only by talking with him about a crime, hoping that he might have information, and he answered their questions in an honest manner. They did not charge him as being part of the crime they were investigating.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Police in Florida Concerned About Immigrants Afraid To Report Crimes

According to WFTV in Florida, the police in Ocoee (FL) are warning migrant workers to be aware of the danger of being targeted by robbers. There have been around a dozen robberies in the last two months and the police are concerned about a combination of two factors -- migrant workers often keep large amounts of money at home and immigrants are often afraid to report crimes. This is even more reason why immigrants should be encouraged and protected when reporting crimes to the police -- as opposed to some situations such as in New Jersey, where talking to the local police about being the victim of a crime can lead you directly to facing deportation. Truly an ugly situation from a public policy standpoint.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Local Police Struggle To Gain Immigrants' Trust

Cara Buckley wrote an article on May 31, 2007 in the New York Times titled "New York City Police Seek Trust Among Immigrants." The NYPD has a New Immigrant-Special Outreach Unit that tries to build trust among immigrants to talk with the local police. This effort makes sense because the police need the trust of those living in the city in order to help protect them, get information about crimes, and keep in touch with them when there are problems.

A big problem now, though, is that the local police in other cities and towns are actively trying to put immigrants in their communities into trouble with federal immigration officials. For example, in one New Jersey town, the local police may even have violated basic, fundamental Constitutional rights in order to coerce an immigrant into revealing his immigration status and then turning him over for deportation -- and this is someone that had not committed any crime, but the police came across him while trying to obtain information about another crime.

If the local police want to gain the trust of immigrants in order to obtain information about crimes they are investigating, then they must not be able to violate people's basic rights and start to get them deported, especially when they did not commit any crime. Unfortunately, this is happening in various cities and towns.

While the NYPD is struggling to get immigrants to trust them, when police in nearby cities and towns have the opposite policy and are actively trying to deport innocent immigrants, it is far easier for immigrants to play it safe and have a blanket response of refusing to talk to any police than to try to convince them to keep a careful chart of which police have a sensible policy and which police have an outrageous policy.

The NYPD should be spending more time convincing the police in other nearby cities and towns to adopt a uniform policy of encouraging immigrants to come forward. Either that or develop a system or code to signal to immigrants that the NYPD is one of the "good" cities but that of course it makes sense that immigrants should refuse to talk to local police in one of the "bad" cities.

Of course, if police wanted to focus on securing national security, they would adopt a uniform policy of strongly encouraging immigrants to come forward with the information they have -- and uniformly refusing to report immigrants to federal immigration authorities.