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Efforts to Protect Immigrants from Crime Elicit Praise—and Criticism

Posted Jun 21, 2007 9:19 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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In separation investigations more than 1,000 miles apart, officials say they have found that illegal immigrants are targeted as crime victims at least in part because they are reluctant to contact police.

Authorities say they have been sensitive to these concerns, focusing enforcement efforts on immigrants who have committed crimes in addition to simply being in the country illegally. However, relatives of some recent arrestees in a law enforcement sweep on the Massachusetts vacation island of Nantucket complained that their family members had done nothing wrong, reports the Boston Globe.

But victims whose reports recently resulted in arrests in South Florida of a smaller group of suspects praised the way Homestead police handled the case, reports the Miami Herald.

The police department sees its job as helping crime victims, who "be treated and given the same service and respect as the president of a bank,'' not acting as an immigration law enforcement branch, says Homestead Det. Antonio Aquino.

Criminals in South Florida "specifically go out looking for migrants; they call it `Chico' hunting,'' Aquino tells the Herald. "A lot of this is caused by our failed immigration policies. It makes our migrant victims fear to come forward.''

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