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.


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