Monday, November 12, 2007

Southern California: Immigrants Targeted For Robberies Afraid To Report Crimes

Richard Winton and Ari B. Bloomekatz of the Los Angeles Times wrote an article "Pair accused of robbing illegal immigrants" in the November 8, 2007 paper.

Detectives arrested two people that they believe were connected with at least 21 robberies in Southern California in which they targeted immigrants, including day laborers, toward the end of the day. They pretended to be police officers and patted down their victims before taking their money. They also targeted minors as robbery victims.

The reporters note that this is only the latest allegation of criminals targeted immigrants, especially those they believe are undocumented. Earlier in 2007, police arrested private security guards for allegedly extorting money from street vendors in South Los Angeles. Also, gangs have extorted vendors and merchants in immigrant areas near MacArthur Park. The reporters explain that on the streets, Latinos are not surprised by the alleged shakedown operation. Sadly, many feel they do not have police protection.

This fear of reporting crimes to the local police may be a serious public safety issue in the United States. The fear that talking to the local police may unfairly and bizarrely lead to the authorities trying to deport the crime victim or crime witness is a real fear and something that could actually happen.

For example, in New Jersey, the local police reported a crime victim who called them for help to ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE in New Jersey went ahead with seeking deportation, even though they were informed several times that the person they were trying to deport was a crime victim who called the local police. The case is now on appeal, but ICE in New Jersey still refuses to stop trying to deport the crime victim.

Recently, New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram issued a declaration that ordered local police not to report in most instances people who are crime victims and crime witnesses to ICE to get them deported. However, there are no safeguards that someone mistakenly called over to ICE would be able to be protected once the mistake is discovered. As we have seen, ICE seems to take an unfortunate view that it should try to deport even crime victims who call the local police for help and as a direct result, the local police call ICE.

The crimes across Southern California show how dangerous it is for ICE and the local police to try to deport crime victims who only came to their attention because they called the local police for help in stopping crime.


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