The Paradox of Law Enforcement in Immigrant Communities: Does tough immigration enforcement undermine public safety?

Report Author: 
David S. Kirk, Andrew V. Papachristos, Jeffrey Fagan, Tom R. Tyler
Original Date of Publication: 
2011 Oct

The Paradox of Law Enforcement in Immigrant Communities (click to view)

Based on a telephone survey of 1,653 immigrants in New York City, stratified by neighborhood location, socio-economic characteristics and ethnicity, this study examines perceptions of the criminal justice system within immigrant communities.

The findings indicate that cooperation with the police is higher in immigrant neighborhoods than in neighborhoods with a preponderance of native-born residents. Despite negative experiences with the police in their home countries, "legal cynicism" tends to be lower in immigrant neighborhoods than in native-born ones. However, ethnic heterogeneity within a particular neighborhood is negatively associated with trust in law enforcement because "a resident may fear retaliation or retribution if he or she helps the police solve a crime committed by a member of another group."

The authors conclude with a discussion about how this surprising "normative compliance" with the law could be undercut by "harsh enforcement" of immigration laws. (Summary by Nick Montalto.)

The Paradox of Law Enforcement in Immigrant Communities (click to view)

Citation: 

Kirk, D., Papachristos, A. V., Fagan, J. and Tyler, T. "The Paradox of Law Enforcement in Immigrant Communities: Does tough immigration enforcement undermine public safety?" (October 4, 2011). Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 11-281. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1939506