A survey and selected site visits were undertaken to provide a broad picture of problems and barriers immigrant groups in the United States encounter as consumers of criminal justice services, their difficulties in accessing justice, and ways of improving the criminal justice response to immigrant needs and problems.
The survey involved police chiefs, prosecutors, and court administrators from the 50 largest U.S. cities. Of 150 officials who received the survey, 91 responded. New York and Philadelphia were chosen for intensive investigation because they have large numbers of recent immigrants from several countries and innovative programs to address cultural diversity. Most officials responding to the survey agreed immigrants reported crimes less frequently than other victims. Only 12 percent thought immigrants were as likely as or more likely to report crimes. Survey respondents said domestic violence was the crime least reported. They also indicated sexual assault and gang violence were more likely to go unreported. About 31 percent of officials believed under-reporting of crimes by immigrants prevented adequate use of law enforcement resources in immigrant communities. Officials believed many immigrants faced greater hardships when reporting crimes to police or appearing in court, including language barriers, cultural differences, and ignorance of the U.S. criminal justice system. Immigrants who reported crimes and appeared in court, however, primarily reported positive experiences. Most criminal incidents described by those interviewed in New York and Philadelphia involved perpetrators from the same ethnic group as the victim. In the New York sample, most crimes involved domestic violence. Further research is recommended to explore under-reporting of crimes by specific immigrant groups and its correlation with isolation from law enforcement and criminal justice systems. Research is also needed to compare immigrant and native-born victim expectations of and satisfaction with the court system. 10 notes and 2 exhibits