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Study: Partnerships With Immigration Enforcers Meant More Crime

Two programs that enlisted local law enforcement to assist in federal immigration enforcement were designed to reduce crime, but in fact had the opposite effect by increasing violence against Latinos, a new study in the journal Criminology & Public Policy concludes. The study by Eric Baumer of Penn State University and Min Xie of the University of Maryland at College Park used National Crime Victimization Survey and census data to capture responses from 354,000 U.S. residents surveyed from 2005 to 2014, when the initial versions of the programs had ended. Those programs, under section 287 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Secure Communities program, increased Latinos' risk of violent victimization an estimated 86% to 111% in communities with one or the other of the programs.

“Contrary to their purpose of enhancing public safety, our results show that the measures enacted by the federal government have not reduced crime, but instead have eroded security in U.S. communities by increasing the likelihood that Latinos experience violent victimization,” the authors said in a prepared statement. The findings remain relevant, they said, because the Trump administration revived the Secure Communities program for a time, while both programs — in which local street officers or jailers checked immigration status, fed immigration leads to federal authorities, and detained suspected undocumented immigrants — spawned analogous programs still in existence. The findings were less conclusive about the specific causes for the rise in victimization. Possible explanations range from the destabilizing effects on families and communities and the loss of trust in local law enforcement resulted from stricter immigration enforcement. “While new iterations address some concerns, our findings make clear that there is no evidence that contemporary federal-local immigration partnerships have reduced Americans’ exposure to crime and in fact may raise the risk of violent victimization among Latinos,” the authors said. They also noted the costs incurred by these programs: $1.1 billion from 2008 to 2014 for the Secure Communities program and an estimated $500 million since 2006 for the Section 287(g) program.


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