Monday, November 12, 2007

Arizona Police Seek Immigrants' Help To Find Rapist

Sarah Muench wrote in the Arizona Republic on November 7, 2007 about "Police seek immigrant help on rapist case." Immigrants and experts say that most undocumented immigrants will not report crimes to police for fear of being deported. Police in Arizona know that is the case so they are making efforts to reach out to the undocumented immigrants hoping that someone with information about a rapist will come forward to help protect public safety. The Chandler Police Chief Sherry Kiyler has taken a public stand that their local police will not enforce immigration law, but they are still concerned the public safety is suffering because undocumented immigrants are afraid to tell the police about crimes.

The fears of immigrant crime victims and crime witnesses may be well-founded if the experience of one New Jersey crime victim is considered -- a man who was out of status and a crime victim called the local New Jersey police using 911 to report an ongoing crime. He had not committed any crimes and had a clean record other than being out of status. After using the key information to stop the ongoing crime, the local police then reported the crime victim to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) which is in the process of a two-year effort to deport the crime victim. The possible chilling effect is that despite all the police's promises and efforts to fight crime by asking everyone to share information, undocumented immigrants have good reason to be afraid of reporting crimes to the police.

As a result, it is possible that the safety of everyone in the United States is worsened. Especially if a criminal mistakenly thinks a United States citizen is an undocumented immigrant and attacks the person. Or if a United States citizen is attacked and the only crime witness was an undocumented immigrant -- and it is not clear whether the immigrant would in his right mind be willing to take the chance of providing crucial crime-fighting information yet risk deportation.

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.