VIDEO: Crimes Against Immigrants Go Unreported

In response to unsubstantiated fears that undocumented immigrants are criminally inclined, many local and state governments have passed ordinances and resolutions that require or permit local police to question the legal status of virtually anyone they come in contact with.  As a result, many immigrants, legal or otherwise, have avoided any contact with local police for fear that they may be deported.  The consequences have been dire.

Criminals, armed with knowledge that their crimes are likely go unreported, have begun targeting anyone who may appear to be "illegal," whether they be undocumented, legal residents, or U.S. citizens of foreign descent.  The local laws, instead of reducing crime, have only served to increase the amount of immigrant-targeted burglaries in these communities.

From Washington, D.C.'s ABC 7 News:

There is never hesitation to call police when you are a victim to crime, but not everyone thinks of officers as a way of help.

Salvadoran immigrant, Everth Guerrero, couldn't help to look over his shoulder with every step he took. He was robbed at gun point in Langely Park while walking home from work.

Guerrero asked not to be identified in ABC 7's story. Through a translater he explained what happened, "I gave him the $16 I had in my pocket," he said, "then he said 'just keep walking straight, don't turn your back.' I was really, really nervous."

It's a common story in immigrant communities, especially those where people are known to carry a lot of cash, don't speak much english, and may be thought to be illegal.

"A lot of the Hispanic communities, Asian, Ethopian groups here in D.C. have been targeted because they've been preceived as being an easy target," said Sgt. Carlos Mejia.

Like many immigrant victims, Guerrero did not call police.

'I thought it was too little money, so they will not do anything about it,' Guerrero said.

"For every crime that is reported there is probably two, three or four that this individual has suffered that they have not reported," said Mejia.

Police said the lack of reporting makes it hard to know how often these immigrant targeted crimes are happening. They are frequent enough though, that they've earned the dubious nickname "Amigo Shopping".

Montgomery County State's attorney John McCarthy wanted the crimes reported. He created a new advisory commitee to help better get the message to victims.

"We will try to find the person who violated you, that victimized you, and we will try to hold them accountable and that will be regardless of what your status is here in this country," said John McCarthy.

For Guerrero, he came to the U.S. to escape violence and build a better life, one he fears nearly came to an end because of a robber's gun.1
1. "Project Immigration: Crimes Go Unreported," ABC7 News, Washington, D.C., 6 June 2008

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund