Some crimes against undocumented immigrants go unreported, according to Raleigh Police Chief Harry Dolan. Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez agreed that some people in the country illegally do not report crimes for fear of being deported.
Dolan spoke today at a press conference with the police chiefs from Durham and Chapel Hill after a meeting on immigration issues and policing sponsored by the Police Executive Research Forum.
The Durham Police Department’s Lopez said education is key for dealing with immigration issues, for both police departments and the community. Lopez said fear is the major factor that prevents undocumented immigrants from reporting crimes.
“I feel there are crimes going unreported, I feel there are too many crimes going unreported,” Lopez said. He said those crimes particularly involve assaults and human trafficking. “People who have the information aren’t coming forward for fear that either they or a loved one will wind up getting into the web of immigrations and be lost.
Dolan said that he thinks there are “hudlums and criminals in this community that are targeting people based on the fact that they are anticipating that they will not call the police.”
Tony Asion, director of the Raleigh-based group El Pueblo, attended the meeting. He said that the group recognized that there are “criminal elements in all walks of life.” He also said that the group of police officers and community members agreed that the country needs immigration reform. “There’s a whole lot of problems, and with immigration reform a whole great deal of those problems would be solved,” Asion said.
Asion said there are between 11 and 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Dolan said that the 287(g) program, which gives sheriffs’ departments to power to check immigration status of people booked into county jails, is “a fundamental booking process.”
“If someone is arrested we should be checking who they are, we should be check all warrants and all statuses,” Dolan said. He also said that people were being deported for “what some might call trivial offenses.”
But going back to having undocumented immigrants reporting crimes, Dolan said, “I want people calling me, especially victims.”
“The challenge today that we’re finding is that the trust is diminishing because they’re concerned what would happen to a family member if they called the police,” Dolan said. “How do you handle that?” He asked, “Well, you start by having discussions like we did today.”
Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, said his organization’s role is not political. He said the group is meeting with the White House and other federal officials to help figure out these issues. Wednesday’s meeting was one in a series of similar meeting across the country and included 50 representatives from police departments in North and South Carolina.