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Immigrants as Victims

Date Published
May 1, 2011

Immigrants as victims. In late 2009, NIJ was tasked by Congress to "evaluate trends in hate crimes against new immigrants, individuals who are perceived to be immigrants, and Hispanic-Americans, and to assess the underlying causes behind any increase in hate crimes against such groups." NIJ has funded Abt. Associates to conduct this evaluation, which is ongoing. [1]

Immigration and crime reporting. A national survey of police chiefs, prosecutors, and court administrators from 50 of the largest U.S. cities found that 67 percent of survey respondents believed that recent immigrants report crimes less frequently than other victims. [2] Reasons cited were fear of retaliation, ignorance of the U.S. criminal justice system, language barriers, and other hardships.

A second phase of the study interviewed immigrant victims in New York and Philadelphia, cities with large immigrant populations and innovative programs that serve them. Surprisingly, victims reported few impediments in dealing with either the police or courts. Decisions to report crime did not differ by educational level, country of origin, immigration status, or whether the crime was committed by someone from the same ethnic group. Rather, the likelihood of reporting was linked to collective efficacy — how well a neighborhood or immigrant group is integrated into the fabric of the larger community. Only the type of crime predicted whether a victimized immigrant would report it. Victims of domestic violence, for example, were less likely to report the incident than victims of other crimes.

More research is needed to confirm whether these results can be generalized to other cities.

Date Published: May 1, 2011