The Challenge of Policing Immigrant Communities

Research output: Other contribution


Providing effective policing for immigrant communities is one of the greatest challenges facing law enforcement agencies in the United States today. Despite the fact that police departments across the country have worked hard to improve their relations with immigrant communities in recent years, research suggests that many immigrants continue to encounter considerable difficulties in their dealings with the police and the criminal justice system in general. Language barriers, cultural differences, and a lack of familiarity with the US legal system, are all factors that can prevent immigrants from gaining access to justice or taking advantage of important criminal justice services. In addition, recent immigrants often fail to report crimes to the police with the result that many US immigrant communities receive inadequate funding for crime control and law enforcement. Many of the problems currently facing the police stem from a lack of trust on the part of recent immigrants. Many immigrants continue to view the police with a mixture of fear and suspicion, often as a result of negative experiences with the police in their countries of origin, or because they are afraid of being turned over to the immigration authorities. In the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, the debate over how best to police immigrant communities has taken a new turn. For many, the concern has turned from community outreach and building trust, toward questions of security and the threat of terrorism. There have been repeated calls for the police to become more involved with border controls and the apprehension of illegal immigrants, and for local law enforcement agencies to work more closely with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and federal law enforcement agencies. Although a few senior police officers have expressed reservations about being drawn into immigration matters, other police departments have quickly offered increased support to the INS. In light of such developments, there is now a pressing need to re-examine how immigrants are treated by the criminal justice system, and to ask whether new approaches to the policing of immigrant communities should be considered. In particular, this paper focuses on the treatment of immigrants by the police, and the challenge of reconciling growing concerns about the problem of illegal immigration and national security with the desire to provide effective legal protection for immigrant victims and their communities. Number of Pages in PDF File: 22

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2002

Publication series

SeriesAll Faculty Publications

Cite this