Criminals are increasingly targeting illegal immigrants — or people they perceive to be illegal immigrants — because the victims are reluctant to report crimes due to fear of being deported, police say.
The victims also are targeted because they are not likely to have bank accounts and are more likely to carry large amounts of cash.
Tulsa police say about 40 percent of all robberies target Hispanic immigrants. It's a problem in Oklahoma City as well, a police spokesman said.
Some say the trend illustrates the danger of local enforcement of federal immigration laws, as is being done in Tulsa County. Others think it points to the problem of sustaining a presence of noncitizens within our borders.
"In a way, they are the perfect victims,” said Michael Brooks-Jimenez, an Oklahoma City immigration attorney. "I just hate the fact that HB 1804 has brought this out in people. Whatever inroads the Oklahoma City Police Department and the police in other places have made with the Hispanic community to re-establish their trust has been eroded by these criminals that continue to target them.”
‘An imperfect world'
Oklahoma City police say last summer, gangs were targeting residents of an apartment complex where Hispanic immigrants lived.
"The only solution to this problem is a consistent policy of enforcement that reduces illegal immigration. Illegals are always going to be hesitant of the police,” said Steve Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, a Virginia-based public policy group that advocates strict enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.
Immigrants will remain apprehensive because they typically come from countries with rampant police and government abuse and corruption, Camarota said.
"I am sure there are a lot of illegal immigrants who do not report crime. I am sure there are a lot of prostitutes and chronic substance abusers who also do not report crime, but that's all a part of living in an imperfect world,” he said. "Unless we are going to completely look away and turn a blind eye to illegal immigration, we have no alternative. You cannot rule out the constructive role that law enforcement can play.