Does intensifying immigrationenforcement lead to under-reporting of crime among undocumented immigrants and their communities? We empirically test the claims of activists and legal advocates that the escalation of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activities in 2017 negatively impacted the willingness of undocumented immigrants and Hispanic communities to report crime. We hypothesize that ICE cooperation with local law enforcement, in particular, discourages undocumented immigrants and their Hispanic community members from reporting crime. Using a difference-in-difference approach and FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data at the county level, we find that total reported crime fell from 2016 to 2017 in counties with higher shares of Hispanic individuals and in counties where local law enforcement had more cooperation with ICE. Using the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), we show that these declines in the measured crime rate are driven by decreased crime reporting by Hispanic communities rather than by decreased crime commission or victimization. Finally, we replicate these results in a second case study by leveraging the staggered roll-out of the 2008–2014 Secure Communities program across US counties. Taken together, our findings add to a growing body of literature demonstrating how immigration enforcement reduces vulnerable populations’ access to state services, including the criminal justice system.
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We use the term Hispanic rather than Latino/a/x as a matter of consistency with our data sources, however, we are sensitive to debates on terminology.
Terminology used in article.
Terminology used in the article.
Terminology used in the article.
Terminology used in the report.
ILRC’s coding includes seven policies: 1. Declines 287(g) Program, 2. Declines ICE detention contract, 3. Limits ICE holds, 4. Limits ICE notifications, 5. Limits on ICE interrogations in jail, 6. Prohibition on asking immigration status, 7. General Prohibition on Assistance to ICE
Counties in black lack an ILRC coding of local law enforcement cooperation with ICE
The ILRC provided us with the raw FOIA data upon request and the present version of the ILRC map is available here.
The NCVS includes sexual assault and simple assault in personal crimes, which the UCR excludes. However, the NCVS does not include homicides or crime against children 11 or younger.
Secure Communities was reactivated on January 25, 2017 under Executive Order No. 13768: “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States”
Deportation rates by county were scraped from Syracuse University’s Transactional Record Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) database on ‘Removals Under the Secure Communities Program.
Some counties appear to never have deported any individuals under the Secure Communities program, whether due to non-compliance during the time window or because they never arrested any individuals whose fingerprints were registered with DHS
Miles and Cox (2014) uses a similar design to study Secure Communities’ effect on crime. We extend their crime data to include 2 years prior to their observation period and two years after their observation period to take advantage of data not available at the time of their publication.
In some counties, crimes are only reported by counties to the federal government quarterly, biennially, or annually. We imputed monthly values for these counties by averaging the total annual crime across each respective time period, following the approach taken by Miles and Cox (2014). We also acknowledge the caveat made by Maltz and Targonski (2002) who report missing data issues with the UCR stemming from reporting variation within counties.
Demographic data is taken from the American Community Survey 5-year estimates.
It is estimated that 78\(\%\) of deportations under Secure Communities were to Mexico. https://econofact.org/secure-communities-broad-impacts-of-increased-immigration-enforcement
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We thank Hanno Hilbig, Eric Macias, Michael Zoorob, and participants at Harvard University’s Migration Workshop, Graduate Political Economy Workshop, and at the 2019 Open Borders Conference for vital comments and advice on the paper. We also thank the Immigrant Legal Resource Center for sharing their data. All remaining errors are our own.
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Dhingra, R., Kilborn, M. & Woldemikael, O. Immigration Policies and Access to the Justice System: The Effect of Enforcement Escalations on Undocumented Immigrants and Their Communities. Polit Behav 44, 1359–1387 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-020-09663-w
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