The Immigrant as Victim: The Minimal Research
- 362 Downloads
Despite the common observation that immigrants are frequently victims of crimes, research on the topic has been limited in part due to the lack of good data and in part because claims makers have constructed the problem in other, more socially and politically compelling terms: “modern slaves;” trafficking victims; domestic violence; hate crime; child abuse and elder abuse. Another aspect of the problem is that the concept “immigrant” over-aggregates, lumping into one category people with widely differing characteristics. Victimologists have approached the subject from distinct traditions: the humanistic/human rights vs. the positivist or “conservative.”
KeywordsSocial construction Over-aggregate Humanism Positivism Claims makers Hans von Hentig
Criminological research on immigrants has been primarily concerned with the criminality of immigrants. Less concern has been paid to immigrants as victims of crime In his review of the literature, for instance, Satyanshu Mukherjee of the Australian Institute of Criminology concluded that “apart from hate crime, there has been little concern in criminal victimization of immigrants.”1 This comes as no surprise given that in 1967 the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice declared that “one of the most neglected subjects in the study of crime is its victims.”2 Although the pioneer victimologist Hans von Hentig , himself an immigrant, devoted substantial attention to the depredations inflicted upon immigrants by criminal and unscrupulous predators,3 until recently victimologists have not pursued that topic.4 Virtually nothing more was done until the Fifth International Symposium on Victimology in 1985. Even then there was not much about immigrant victims.5
[T]he immigrant is not the typical criminal but the typical criminalised person, not the typical example of the individual offender being punished but the model of the innocent being victimized as a member of a demonised category.8
These days stories about the criminal victimization of immigrants are daily fare in the media. A Maryland legislator tells the press, “[i]t bothers me to see how our (immigrant) community is victimized by so many fraudulent scams.”9 Similarly, a former German police officer says, “You don’t find foreigners on the streets in eastern Germany past 6 or 8 p.m. In the villages, it’s difficult for the police because often their own sons are involved in the violence… And the rightists have some sympathizers among the police. I’ve heard police say, ‘All foreigners are criminals, and the young people help us keep the countryside clean.’”10
The journey is extremely dangerous. The stories these seven men tell highlight the perils faced by the hundreds of Guatemalans, Hondurans, Salvadorans and others who begin the trip every day. The men in the shanty say that since they entered Mexico at the southern state of Chiapas a few days earlier, they have seen or experienced just about everything: Some have been beaten, forced to pay bribes, robbed by law enforcement officers, ripped off by shopkeepers and bus drivers, cheated by smugglers, ambushed and mugged by gun-toting bandits.13
A not unimportant matter that was mentioned by a number of Police Officers in each of the States was that, whilst undue publicity was given to the offenses alleged to have been committed by migrants, little or nothing was said of the many instances when European migrants had been assaulted or robbed or otherwise ill-treated by the undesirable sections of our own native-born populations.14
The minimal research on the victimization of immigrants is undoubtedly related in part to the difficulty of obtaining valid data on the immigration status of crime victims. Information about crimes against immigrants is mostly anecdotal coming from media reports or the experiences of immigrant service providers. There are virtually no official crime statistics on this matter of the criminal victimization of immigrants in the USA15 or Australia.16 Such data are available in several European countries. However, their validity and reliability are open to question.17
Another reason for the lack of a focus on immigrants qua immigrants as victims is what researchers working within the social constructionist tradition would describe as the process of defining victim categories and of “making claims”18 on behalf of those categories. Victim-activists have been remarkably successful at placing a variety of victim categories and victim issues on the public agenda, including elder abuse,19 hate crime,20 child abuse,21 domestic abuse,22 and crime against the elderly.23 The fact that they have not cast “immigrants” in the role of “star victim”24 does not necessarily mean that concern about immigrant victimization does not exist at all. Rather, it is because certain immigrant troubles have been subsumed under politically hotter topics, such as hate crime, domestic violence and human trafficking.25
Indeed, one of the most successful claims-making campaigns on behalf of victims of crime ever mounted is about an “immigration” issue. However, it has been packaged under the far more politically potent rubric of “the trafficking of human beings .” The star role in this campaign has been a classic example of what Nils Christie called the “ideal victim,” i.e., “a person or category of individuals who—when hit by crime—most readily are given the complete and legitimate status of being a victim.”26 Like Hiram Powers’ famous sculpture, The Greek Slave,27 the image of the innocent girl abducted to a foreign land and forced into sexual slavery by depraved and lustful men became a household icon, the image of the innocent girl being trafficked off to a foreign land to be debauched has been used to successfully galvanize support for the anti-trafficking cause.28
Related to this second reason for the lack of research on immigrants as victims of crime is the fact that the concept “immigrant” over-aggregates matters. Unlike traditional demographic variables such as gender, age, race/ethnicity, social class, and urban vs. rural residence, the status of being an immigrant does not represent a singular dimension of social status or experience. Any review of what is known about the victimization of immigrants by necessity must expect to find the literature subdivided into more specialized categories such as hate crime, domestic violence and trafficking of humans.
It must also be recognized that since the 1960s much research related to immigrants no longer focuses upon immigrant status as it did in the early twentieth century in the United States. These days the terms, race, ethnicity, and immigrant are used virtually interchangeably. Thus, in Europe and Australia official data on hate crime and crime victimization surveys that ask about race and ethnic information are presumed to be proxy measures for crimes against immigrants—even though the victims may be second or third generation. It also bears mentioning that since the war in Yugoslavia and the collapse of Soviet communism, the term “immigrant” (especially in Europe) is often used synonymously with that of refugee or asylum seeker.
When victimologists/criminologists have focused on immigrants as victims of crime, they have sometimes followed the humanistic/human rights (as opposed to the positivist or so-called “conservative”) tradition in victimology.29 They have not limited their analyses solely to victimizations involving crimes in the technical, legal sense.30 Rather they define “victimization” broadly to include civil matters, such as unfair business or labor practices31; discriminatory behavior by the police and the criminal justice system32; discriminatory labor standards and laws that put farm workers and illegal immigrants at high risk of physical injuries or loss of wages33; harsh and stingy asylum and refugee policies34; and “the criminalization of immigration controls.”35
It should be noted that the American lack of research on immigrants as victims of crime is unlikely to be reversed by the Donald Trump administration. Actually at his first address to Congress, President Trump promised to have immigrants studied as the cause of crime.36 In addition to describing the development of victimology and its reasons for not focusing much on immigrants, this chapter describes the endless types of crimes and injuries which immigrants suffer. It also reviews theories of victimization at both the macro and micro levels, showing that they fit the patterns in the data rather well. However, it also highlights an inconsistency between the macro -level explanation which emphases heterogeneity (ethnic differences among groups as a cause of conflict) and the micro-level explanations that stress homogeneity (the lifestyles shared in common and the fact that immigrants are usually victimized by their own kind).
These two perspectives and the data behind them seem to both support and challenge at the same time the popular idea that ethnic enclaves protect immigrants from victimization. Yes, enclaves do seem to protect immigrants from victimization by outsiders but not by insiders. That is, enclaves reduce heterogeneity within them and thereby reduce the chance of so-called “hate crime” (victimization motivated by differences in culture, religion, nationality, ethnicity). But enclaves also increase homogeneity which means that immigrants are living together with other immigrants and co-ethnics. That situation increases the risk of being victimized by fellow immigrants and co-ethnics, which is precisely what the data show happening and what the opportunity theories predict. This conclusion is supported below.
M ukherjee (1999).
President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (1967: 38).
Von H entig (1945).
None of the following major books on victims of crime address “immigrants” as victims—although some do address racial minorities (Karmen 1990; F attah 1991; Elias 1993; Sgarzi and McDevitt 2003; Kennedy and Sacco 1998; Shichor and Tibbetts 2002; Goodey 2005). But see Coston (2004). The problems of immigrants as victims have been featured in various numbers of the International Review of Victimology.
Of the 43 presenters only three addressed the victimization of “the foreign born and minorities.” In summarizing those presentations the rapporteurs wrote: “Alien persons in a society often suffer extraordinary degrees of victimization” (Geis et al. 1988: 199). The evidence presented amounted to nothing more than examples of misunderstanding and mistreatment of minorities; labor market exploitation; and the failure to translate legal concepts into the languages familiar to certain minorities.
V on Hentig (1948: 414).
S chafer (1981: 23).
A gozino (1996: 103).
C ity Limits (2004).
Templeton and Maphumulo (2005).
G raglia (2006).
Quoted in Mukherjee (1999: 23).
M ukherjee (1999).
A survey of the Member States of the European Union asked whether when registering racist crimes the police recorded the ethnicity and/or nationality (citizenship) of victims and/or offenders. Twenty-two countries (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden) indicated that “nationality” was recorded. In some cases, this was only for the victim, in others only for the offender. In most cases it seems that “nationality” meant “citizenship status.” In a few countries the classification actually used was simply “citizen” or “foreigner” (Oakley 2005: 19). See also, for Germany (Albrecht 1987, 1997); Italy (Barbagli 1998; Barbagli and Colombo 2009); Netherlands (Junger-Tas 1994); Sweden (Martens 1997); and Switzerland (Killias 1997: 21).
Spector and Kitsuse (1977).
Cooke and Skogan (1990).
Christie (1986: 18). For example , the ideal victim would be weak (sick, old, very young); carrying out a respectable activity where she could not be blamed for being (e.g., in a public sidewalk in daylight); and the offender is big, bad, and in no personal relationship to the victim.
P owers (1844).
Mawby and Walklate (1994).
Victimology has a long tradition of defining the scope of its field well beyond violations of criminal law (Geis et al. 1988; M endelsohn 1963; F attah 1991). Cressey notes that this renders the field unmanageable and unscientific, albeit responsive to humanitarian and justice concerns (Cressey 1988).
C laghorn (1917).
Holdaway (2003), M ukherjee (1999: 112). V on Hentig would agree with Holdaway and Mukherjee that immigrants who have been the object of police prejudice are properly thought of as “victims.” He wrote: “One is not allowed to speak of delinquents as ‘victims’ of criminal justice, with one exception. If the treatment of many law-enforcing agencies is grossly discriminatory, concept and term are justified” (von H entig 1948: 417).
Jenks and Jenks (2004).
Hagen, Lisa. 2017. Democrats Groan as Trump Promotes New Immigration Crime Office. The Hill, February 28. http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/321717-democrats-groan-as-trump-promotes-new-immigration-crime-office. Accessed 6 Apr 2017.
- Abraham, Margaret. 2000. Speaking the Unspeakable: Marital Violence Among South Asian Immigrants in the United States. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
- Agozino, Biko. 1996. Changes in the Social Construct of Criminality Among the Immigrants in the United Kingdom. In Délit d’Immigration/Immigrant Delinquency, ed. S. Palidda, 103–131. Brussels: European Commission.Google Scholar
- ———. 1997. Ethnic Minorities, Crime and Criminal Justice in Germany. In Ethnicity, Crime, and Immigration: Comparative and Cross-National Perspectives, ed. M.H. Tonry, 31–99. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Barbagli, Marzio. 1998. Immigrazione e Criminalità in Italia. Bologna: Il Mulino.Google Scholar
- Barbagli, Marzio, and Asher Colombo. 2009. Immigrants as Authors and Victims of Crime: The Italian Experience. In Immigration, Crime and Justice, ed. William F. McDonald, 69–94. Bingley, UK: Emerald/JAI Press.Google Scholar
- Baumann, E.A. 1989. Research Rhetoric and the Social Construction of Elder Abuse. In Images of Issues: Typifying Contemporary Social Problems, ed. J. Best, 55–70. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
- City Limits. 2004. Race Wars: Since 9/11, New York Has Been Shocked by Hate Crimes Against Immigrants. But What Happens When The Perps are People of Color Too? City Limits 29 (5, May): 17.Google Scholar
- Coston, Charisse T.M., ed. 2004. Victimizing Vulnerable Groups: Images of Uniquely High-Risk Crime Targets. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
- Cressey, Donald R. 1988. Research Implications of Conflicting Conception of Victimology. In Victimology: International Action and Study of Victims, ed. Z.P. Separovic, 43–54. Zagreb, Yugoslavia: University of Zagreb.Google Scholar
- Czajkoski, Eugene H. 1992. Criminalizing Hate: An Empirical Assessment. Federal Probation 56 (3, September): 36–41.Google Scholar
- Fattah, Ezzat A. 1991. Understanding Criminal Victimization: An Introduction to Theoretical Victimology. Scarborough, Ontario: Prentice-Hall Canada.Google Scholar
- Geis, Gilbert, Duncan Chappell, and Michael W. Agopian. 1988. Rapporteurs’ Report: Toward the Alleviation of Human Suffering: The Fifth International Symposium on Victimology, Zagreb, 1985. In Victimology: International Action and Study of Victims, ed. Z.P. Separovic, 189–205. Zagreb, Yugoslavia: University of Zagreb.Google Scholar
- Goodey, J.O. 2005. Victims and Victimology. Longman Criminology Series. New York: Longman.Google Scholar
- Graglia, Diego. 2006. Migrants from Central America Brutalized in Mexico on Way to U.S. The Newhouse News Service. http://www.newhousenews.com/archive/graglia070506.html. Accessed 7 June 2006.
- Hagan, John, and Alberto Palloni. 1998. Immigration and Crime in the United States. In The Immigration Debate: Studies on the Economic, Demographic, and Fiscal Effects of Immigration, ed. J.P. Smith and B. Edmonston, 367–387. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
- Jenks, David A., and Catherine A. Jenks. 2004. Where are You Now, Cesar Chavez? The Unique Vulnerabilities and Victimization Experiences of Mexican Immigrants in the United States. In Victimization of Vulnerable Groups: Images of Uniquely High-Risk Crime Targets, ed. C.T.M. Coston, 96–103. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
- Junger-Tas, Josine. 1994. Delinquency in Thirteen Western Countries: Some Preliminary Conclusions. In Delinquent Behavior Among Young People in the Western World: First Results of the International Self-Report Delinquency Study, ed. J. Junger-Tas, G.J. Terlouw, and M.W. Klein, 370–380. The Hague and Amsterdam: RDC, Ministry of Justice Kugler Publications.Google Scholar
- Karmen, Andrew. 1990. Crime Victims: An Introduction to Criminology. 2nd ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
- Kennedy, Leslie W., and Vincent F. Sacco. 1998. Crime Victims in Context. Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury.Google Scholar
- Killias, Martin. 1997. Immigrants, Crime, and Criminal Justice in Switzerland. In Ethnicity, Crime and Immigration: Comparative and Cross-National Perspectives, ed. M. H. Tonry, 375–405. Vol. 21, Crime and Justice: A Review of Research. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Martens, Peter L. 1997. Immigrants, Crime, and Criminal Justice in Sweden. In Ethnicity, Crime, and Immigration: Comparative and Cross-National Perspectives, ed. M.H. Tonry, 183–255. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Mawby, R.I., and Sandra Walklate. 1994. Critical Victimology: International Perspectives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Mendelsohn, Benjamin. 1963. The Origin of the Doctrine of Victimology. Excerpta Criminologica 3(3, May–June): 239–244.Google Scholar
- Moseley, Ray. 1998. Germany’s New Storm Troopers: Old Demons in New Guise Spread Fear Among Foreigners. Chicago Tribune, April 5. University of North Carolina TV Online. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1998-04-05/news/9804050452_1_foreigners-rightist-violence-nazi. Accessed 25 May 2017.
- Mukherjee, Satyanshu. 1999. Ethnicity and Crime. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, No. 117. Australian Institute of Criminology. http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/tandi/101-120/tandi117.html. Accessed 9 Aug 2004.
- Oakley, Robin. 2005. Policing Racial Crime and Violence: A Comparative Analysis. Vienna: European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. http://eumc.eu.int/eumc/material/pub/PRCV/PRCV-Final.pdf. Accessed 18 June 2006.
- Palidda, Salvatore, ed. 1996. Délit d’Immigration/Immigrant Delinquency. EUR; 17472 FR/EN. Bruxelles: European Commission.Google Scholar
- Powers, Hiram. 1844. A Small Collection of Powers’ Statues. Worcestor, MA: Assumption College. http://www.assumption.edu/whw/IconsFemale/TheGreekSlave.html. Accessed 17 Mar 2003.
- President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice. 1967. The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
- Schafer, Stephen. 1981. The Beginning of Victimology. In Perspectives on Crime Victims, ed. B. Galaway and J. Hudson, 15–26. St. Louis, MO: C.V. Mosby.Google Scholar
- Sgarzi, Judith M., and Jack McDevitt, eds. 2003. Victimology: A Study of Crime Victims and Their Roles. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Hall.Google Scholar
- Shichor, David, and Stephen G. Tibbetts. 2002. Victims and Victimization. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland.Google Scholar
- Spector, M., and J.I. Kitsuse. 1977. Constructing Social Problems. Menlo Park, CA: Cummings.Google Scholar
- Templeton, Alameen and Solly Maphumulo. 2005. Immigrants are Getting a Raw Deal. Durban: IOL (South Africa). http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=15&art_id=vn20050620075927904C974853. Accessed 22 June 2005.
- ———. 1948. The Criminal & His Victim: Studies in the Sociobiology of Crime. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
- Williams, Krissah. 2005. Latino Restaurant Workers Offered Free Financial Management Classes. The Washington Post, August 2, D, p. 4.Google Scholar