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The Paradox of Law Enforcement in Immigrant Communities: Does Tough Immigration Enforcement Undermine Public Safety?

34 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2011  

David Kirk

University of Oxford

Andrew V. Papachristos

Yale University - Department of Sociology

Jeffrey Fagan

Columbia Law School

Tom Tyler

Yale University - Law School

Date Written: October 4, 2011

Abstract

Frustrated by federal inaction on immigration reform, several U.S. states in recent years have proposed or enacted laws designed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. and to facilitate their removal. An underappreciated implication of these laws is the potential alienation of immigrant communities - even law abiding, cooperative individuals - from the criminal justice system. The ability of the criminal justice system to detect and sanction criminal behavior is dependent upon the cooperation of the general public, including acts such as the reporting of crime and identifying suspects. Cooperation is enhanced when local residents believe that laws are enforced fairly. In contrast, research reveals that cynicism of the police and the legal system undermines individuals’ willingness to cooperate with the police and engage in the collective actions necessary to socially control crime. By implication, recent trends toward strict local enforcement of immigration laws may actually undercut public safety by creating a cynicism of the law in immigrant communities. Using data from a 2002 survey of New York City residents, this study explores the implications of perceived injustices perpetrated by the criminal justice system for resident willingness to cooperate with the police in immigrant communities.

Suggested Citation

Kirk, David and Papachristos, Andrew V. and Fagan, Jeffrey and Tyler, Tom, 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: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1939506 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1939506

David Kirk

University of Oxford ( email )

Oxford, OX1 3UQ
United Kingdom

Andrew V. Papachristos

Yale University - Department of Sociology ( email )

493 College St
New Haven, CT 06520
United States

HOME PAGE: http://papachristos.org

Jeffrey Fagan (Contact Author)

Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States
212-854-2624 (Phone)
212-854-7946 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.columbia.edu/fac/Jeffrey_Fagan

Tom Tyler

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

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