Monday, February 18, 2008

Immigration laws prevent police from solving crime

The most important public safety argument for expanding legal immigration and legalizing undocumented immigrants, to me, is the fact that immigrants tend not to cooperate with law enforcement as either a victim or a witness, even in cases of domestic abuse. KXAN-TV in Austin had a recent story on this topic:
For those living in this country illegally, the fear of deportation can keep them from reporting a crime. ...

"Women in general are afraid to report domestic violence," said Detective Darla Fuller of the Travis County Sheriff's Office. "When a woman is afraid of deportation, usually that is something that the batterer has used to keep her in line or to try to keep her from calling law enforcement."
There are supposedly around 1.6 million undocumented immigrants living in Texas. That's 1.6 million people who are unlikely to either report crimes against them (particularly those committed by a family member) or cooperate with police as a witness.

Austin PD and the Travis County Sheriff both say they don't ask victims about immigration status, but the Travis Sheriff has just allowed federal immigration agents to set up shop in the jail, so in cases of domestic violence, if the immigration status of the offender is the same as the victim, the policy still keeps people from calling.

The Sheriff's Department actually recommended women in this position call the Political Asylum Project or SafePlace, a shelter for abused women, if they're worried about immigration status issues getting mixed up in a domestic abuse case. That seems outrageous to me: Our immigration policies are now causing law enforcement to refer out domestic violence cases to non-profits? That can't be good for public safety.

In a related safety matter, security expert Bruce Schneier makes similar arguments as to why illegal immigrants, as a practical matter, "we are all safer if we encourage every adult in America to get a driver's license," he wrote. Read his full essay from the Detroit Free Press where he argues, "We are all safer if everyone in society trusts and respects law enforcement. A society where illegal immigrants are afraid to talk to police because of fear of deportation is a society where fewer people come forward to report crimes, aid police investigations, and testify as witnesses."


Anonymous said...

Life's hell sometimes, ain't it? Well, you're right, regardless of a person's immigration status, we have the moral obligation to protect non-citizens, including illegals, from violence.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

It's not only for their benefit; if witnesses won't talk to police, it makes everyone less safe, just as we're less safe if the drivers among those 1.6 million people are not licensed and insured.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, this happens all too often with legal citizens. This is no excuse for thinking that amnesty will cure crime. It won't. If they don't belong here, then they shouldn't be here.

(PS - I made some suggestions for addition to your TYC proposal below.)

Anonymous said...

Well, if they weren't here illegally in the first place, the crime wouldn't have happened here, and if they were here legally, they'd be willing to report and/or cooperate. Kind of a double edged sword.

I'm more middle of the road than most anti-illegal immigration folks, and actually agree that if you're going to give amnesty, this and insurance rates (although many illegals already do have car policies) are good reasons to do it.

I'd just prefer not to.

Anonymous said...

Criminals - Victims of crimes- How novel?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Is it a two-edged sword, rage, if YOU are the crime victim and there are witnesses who won't come forward? Or in that case, wouldn't the edge cut just one way?

I'm glad we finally agree that safety and economics are the best reasons to rationalize immigration policies, and that the main arguments for not doing so, like Bartleby the Scrivener, boil down to "I'd just prefer not to." ;)

Anonymous said...

Grits.....just how does everyone having a drivers license and insurance make me more safe?

With insurance, I may be more financially safe however, I define safety more broadly. For example, I want to be safe from physical harm in a car accident.

Folks have to pass a test to get a drivers license. You would think that would make them safer drivers. I don't agree. Most accidents are caused by teenagers and other drivers just learning to handle a car.

Both a license and insurance are devices that have been invented by government to help control the public. They may provide some control but I personally doubt they make anyone more safe.

After all, every driver has a very personal safety motive to avoid an accident.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

First, drivers do have to meet minimum restrictions to get a license. Second, getting a license allows you to get insurance, and I think uninsured motorists do reduce safety, defined as it affects most people. Third, getting a license means you're "on the grid," meaning there's an address, photo and thumbprint on file at the DPS.

Read the full Bruce Schneier piece for more arguments, including this which I find compelling:

"The state driver's license databases are the only comprehensive databases of U.S. residents. They're more complete, and contain more information - including photographs and, in some cases, fingerprints - than the IRS database, the Social Security database, or state birth certificate databases. As such, they are an invaluable police tool - for investigating crimes, tracking down suspects, and proving guilt.

"Removing the 8 million-15 million illegal immigrants from these databases would only make law enforcement harder. Of course, the unlicensed won't pack up and leave. They will drive without licenses, increasing insurance premiums for everyone. They will use fake IDs, buy real IDs from crooked DMV employees - as several of the 9/11 terrorists did - forge "breeder documents" to get real IDs (another 9/11 terrorist trick), or resort to identity theft. These millions of people will continue to live and work in this country, invisible to any government database and therefore the police."

Anonymous said...

I don't think the benefits would be as great as you say, but all I said was that IF it's going to get done, those would be two benefits. How much of a benefit is questionable, since even citizens don't always buy insurance, or buy it and get their sticker or license renewed, then let it go again.

Anyway, I still think we need to thin the herd out a bit before even coming close to a debate on amnesty.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"we need to thin the herd out a bit before even coming close to a debate on amnesty."

So, Bartleby, does that mean you'll be voting for John McCain or the Democratic nominee? Who do you believe will "thin out the herd" for you?

Anonymous said...

We've been through this one Grits. You and I both know that the party elite (of both parties) is at odds with their constituents on this issue. And they can afford to be. As a Democrat, I can't get pissed off and vote Republican, because they want amnesty for a different reason.

I have to hand it to Cornyn, he's standing up against amnesty. It's the only thing about him that I like, and I bet he buckles once the PAC campaign funds come in. As for all other policies, I favor the Democrats. Well, enough to tip the scales in their favor, anyway.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Rage, I'd say that both parties (mostly the GOP, though) are at odds with PART of their constituency. The nation is significantly divided on this issue.

I'd also say that once you grant your position has no real-world chance of enactment, it's hard to take it too seriously, whether you blame it on elites or impracticality, as I would tend to do.

I'm not picking on you; lots of people hold similar views. But Bartleby the Scrivener was part of (really a precursor to) the literature of the absurd. "I prefer not" just isn't a viable policy stance in the face of documentable harms that could be otherwise resolved. best,

Anonymous said...

Pick away man, I have an ex-wife that's meaner in her sleep than you could every try to be while awake.

I know how it's going to shake out, but I don't like it. And I don't want it. To you that may seem absurd, but to me there are valid reasons to stop the inflow of illegals and start to thin out the ones who are here. And go after the businesses who take advantage of immigrant workers by paying low wages and offering unsafe conditions and no benefits. No way they'd get away with paying us white folks that way.

Anonymous said...

It's obvious that many of you haven't lived where I've lived. I don't report most crime because bringing in the police usually makes things worse. I have yet to find police presence bringing a positive benefit in my life - although when they direct traffic when lights are out is often ignored as a police benefit. Someone has broken into my home when I was there and I handled it myself - with no harm done to anyone! I had my checkbook stolen and I got the third degree from the local police. Not only that I identified the thief's fence - and the police did zilch. I find police totally worthless - unless you have a personal problem and want them to enforce your will on someone else. I have been stopped by police often on busybody accounts that I "looked suspicious" - especially when I was younger. The lies I was told by police to justify detention!

Anonymous said...

"If they were here legally, they'd be willing to report and/or cooperate."

People, in general, legal people, aren't so awfully "Willing to report and/or cooperate", either.

Since you can get suspected, arrested, have your hands bound, and treated so disrespectfully, and badly by police, so easily, in this day and age, average, legal people don't really always appreciate the police like they might have in a more innocent time.

In a country where police sometimes act like an occupying military or violent, rampaging, cursing, screaming, masked, spying, hateful, armored, bulked up, and armed to kill, gang of marauding thugs... everyone should give pause and stop and think when they bring police or government into their own or other peoples' lives any more than they already are.

They aren't so much "Heroes" for us as much as they used to be.

Too much "Collateral damage", "Dynamic entry", "Botched" and "Wrong house" raids. There are too many "Raids". There are too many people imprisoned, already, in this country, for far too many things.

Law enforcement and government agency tactics, used commonly today, against their "Fellow Americans", are meant to terrorize. They do. Especially children.

In a country where police arrest kids for graffiti, fist fights, smoking, scuffles, and any thing they can think up, maybe being a "snitch", "informer", "jerk" isn't what I want to be.

Can I really trust that kind of people? (The police, I mean)

What will they suspect me of?

There is no longer a suggestion of "innocent until proven guilty" in dealings with police. Nowadays, police are looking at every citizen as "suspect" of something.

I've seen it. I've felt it. It's different... and it's not good.

Government and law enforcement relying on bullying, scare,fear, and terror tactics doesn't make for good governing.

Anonymous said...

11:31 ==== well said! Grits makes my case for Driver's Licenses and Auto Insurance just being a device of the Government to control people.

He does not provide any real support for the idea that a Drivers License and Insurance make me more safe.

Bob Dylan said it best ===== "If you want to live outside the law, you must obey it". For me and the majority of Americans, the less we have to with the Police the better off we all are.

The U.S. is comming dangerously close to a totalitarian government. It is very scary to me and anyone that is actually paying attention.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Driver's Licenses and Auto Insurance just being a device of the Government to control people"

Which is, of course, the same as every other law. You could say the same about the immigration statutes!

Anonymous said...

The point is.......these laws (drivers licenses and insurance requirements) don't make anyone safer.

There are lots of laws that don't make anyone safer.

I'm not a libertarian by anyone's definition. I just think we could do with a little less government and not put our safety at risk.

I think using safety concerns to support your political position regarding immigrants smaks of fear mongering.

Anonymous said...

Actually Libertarians believe that laws [and punishments] should be based on harm caused and restitution. Drug laws - based on zero measurable standards for harm - do not serve that purpose. We give citizen taxpayers the double whammy: we cause additional crime creating more crime victims and then we jail them at their expense. Is that justice?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

If I'm fear mongering, then so is Bruce Schneier. Actually I think having a big chunk of your population off the grid is a much bigger safety concern than any anti-immigrant complaint.

E.g., I used to be on the state Bioterrorism Preparedness Advisory Committee. So what happens if a bioweapon goes off in Houston and the state has to evacuate? How do you know if everyone is accounted for, or if you're leaving people behind? The DL database is the single best source for such info.

While it's sometimes used in ways I don't like, and I opposed expanding police use of thumbprint data without a warrant at the Lege (passed in 2005 by Frank Corte of San Antonio), I have little doubt that the DL database is used regularly as an important investigative tool by law enforcement in a wide variety of circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Enforce the law and get them out of the state and the Nation and the problem would be solved.

Anonymous said...

Both a license and insurance are devices that have been invented by government to help control the public.

The insurance part is more about making a bunch of lawyers and to a lesser extent others rich.