Posted on September 19, 2013

Enforcing Immigration Laws Has No “Chilling Effect” on Police Trust

Center for Immigration Studies, September 2013

No evidence of a “chilling effect” from local police cooperation with ICE exists in federal or local government data or independent academic research.

  • Bureau of Justice Statistics data show no meaningful differences among ethnic groups in crime reporting. Overall, Hispanics are slightly more likely to report crimes. Hispanic females especially are slightly more likely than white females and more likely than Hispanic and non-Hispanic males to report violent crimes. This is consistent with academic surveys finding Hispanic females to be more trusting of police than other groups.
  • A major study completed in 2009 by researchers from the University of Virginia and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) found no decline in crime reporting by Hispanics after the implementation of a local police program to screen offenders for immigration status and to refer illegals to ICE for removal. This examination of Virginia’s Prince William County program is the most comprehensive study to refute the “chilling effect” theory. The study also found that the county’s tough immigration policies likely resulted in a decline in certain violent crimes.
  • The most reputable academic survey of immigrants on crime reporting found that by far the most commonly mentioned reason for not reporting a crime was a language barrier (47 percent), followed by cultural differences (22 percent), and a lack of understanding of the U.S. criminal justice system (15 percent) —  not fear of being turned over to immigration authorities. (Davis, Erez, and Avitable, 2001)
  • The academic literature reveals varying attitudes and degrees of trust toward police within and among immigrant communities. Some studies have found that Central Americans may be less trusting than other groups, while others maintain that the most important factor is socio-economic status and feelings of empowerment within a community, rather than the presence or level of immigration enforcement. (See Davis and Henderson 2003 study of New York; Menjivar and Bejarano 2004 study of Phoenix)
  • A 2009 study of calls for service in Collier County, Fla., found that the implementation of the 287(g) partnership program with ICE enabling local sheriff’s deputies to enforce immigration laws, resulting in significantly more removals of criminal aliens, did not affect patterns of crime reporting in immigrant communities. (Collier County Sheriff’s Office)
  • Data from the Boston, Mass., Police Department, one of two initial pilot sites for ICE’s Secure Communities program, show that in the years after the implementation of this program, which ethnic and civil liberties advocates alleged would suppress crime reporting, showed that calls for service decreased proportionately with crime rates. The precincts with larger immigrant populations had less of a decline in reporting than precincts with fewer immigrants. (Analysis of Boston Police Department data by Jessica Vaughan, 2011)
  • Similarly, several years of data from the Los Angeles Police Department covering the time period of the implementation of Secure Communities and other ICE initiatives that increased arrests of aliens show that the precincts with the highest percentage foreign-born populations do not have lower crime reporting rates than precincts that are majority black, or that have a smaller foreign-born population, or that have an immigrant population that is more white than Hispanic. The crime reporting rate in Los Angeles is most affected by the amount of crime, not by race, ethnicity, or size of the foreign-born population. (Analysis of Los Angeles Police Department data by Jessica Vaughan, 2012)
  • Recent studies based on polling of immigrants about whether they might or might not report crimes in the future based on hypothetical local policies for police interaction with ICE, such as one recent study entitled “Insecure Communities”, by Nik Theodore of the University of Illinois, Chicago, should be considered with caution, since they measure emotions and predict possible behavior, rather than record and analyze actual behavior of immigrants. Moreover, this study is flawed because it did not compare crime reporting rates of Latinos with other ethnic groups.