V. Recommendations for Future Research
A number of other important questions should be addressed in the future. For example, how does economic disadvantage operate to produce violence within and across Latino groups with varying levels of citizenship status but in similar communities? Also, is citizenship shaping ethnic differences in dissatisfaction with the police? Moreover, Latinos reside in areas with high levels of disadvantage, but many Latino communities have high levels of labor market attachment, even though typically it might mean employment in menial jobs. What happens when law enforcement officials target specific areas populated by working poor Latinos with aggressive policing tactics designed to subdue immigration policy violations but not necessarily crime? Will native-born Latinos be content with these tactics when pulled off the streets in these sweeps along with documented and undocumented immigrants?
It is not surprising that Latinos disapprove of recent stepped-up immigration enforcement. In a recent survey by the Pew Hispanic Center, Latinos reported wholeheartedly disapproving of a variety of enforcement measures (Menjivar & Bejarno, 2004). More than 80% said that immigration enforcement should be left mainly to the federal authorities instead of the local police; approximately 76% disapproved of workplace raids, 73% disapproved of the criminal prosecution of undocumented immigrants, and 70% disapproved of the criminal prosecution of employers who hire undocumented immigrants. Most Latinos agreed that there has been an increase in the past year in immigration enforcement actions targeted at undocumented immigrants, and more than one third of surveyed Latinos said there has been an increase in anti-immigrant sentiment. A majority of Latinos also reported worrying about deportation.
The potential rise of racial profiling among Latinos is an important topic to consider. In the Pew survey nearly 1 in 10 Latinos, both native and foreign born, reported that in the past year the police or other authorities had stopped them and asked about their immigration status. Thus, will Latino profiling increase hand in hand with police strategies disseminated in reaction to the growth of immigration across the United States? This tactic has the potential to create fear and distrust of the police in many Latino communities, where some families are blended, including immigrant parents and children born and raised in the United States. For example, the Border Patrol recently announced plans to check the documents of Texas residents in the Rio Grande Valley in event of a hurricane evacuation before they are allowed to board evacuation buses. Some residents were concerned that this policy would encourage some people to not evacuate, further endangering immigrant communities and burdening agencies engaged in evacuation, rescue, and relief efforts.
This, of course, has a potential parallel in many immigrant communities. As immigrant blacks, such as Haitians in Miami, move into older African American areas, should we expect more or fewer negative encounters with police profiling in the cities of Miami, Miami Shores, North Miami, El Portal, Biscayne Park, and adjacent communities? Similarly, what about when whites were replaced by Haitians in these areas? These are neighborhoods or municipalities where the lack of attention to heavily immigrant black communities versus African American areas is another unfortunate oversight. Will border police, in search of immigrant blacks, profile African Americans, creating even more hostility in a community already resistant to police authority? Miami is an ethnically diverse community, with many Latino groups hailing heavily from the Caribbean basin. Perhaps cities such as Los Angeles and Houston, where the Mexican-origin population resides alongside Salvadorans and other Latino group members, provide yet another alternative scenario to the study of Latinos and police.
What is the impact of public or police corruption in the home country for Latino immigrants? It is possible that, as disadvantaged as conditions may be, that immigrants may use their home countries, which might have even worse economic and political conditions, as reference points when assessing their economic position relative to others, but the impact of these comparisons on police encounters requires more research. For example, research on human smuggling suggests that law enforcement officials actively aid in facilitating illegal immigrants’ exit from their country of origin to the United States. Public officials openly request money and gifts to facilitate the immigration process to the extent that workers in the smuggling business consider public corruption a cost of doing business (Chavez, 2008). Even though they develop a general distaste for corruption and the extraction of bribes, which cuts into their profit margins, in the end public or police corruption is part of the price built into the smuggling business. These activities probably shape immigrants’ perceptions, expectations, and tolerance of American law enforcement. It very well might be that an immigrant’s prior experience in his or her home country has set such a low standard of expectation that it affects what he or she expects and will tolerate in the United States. Given the widespread popularity of immigration crackdowns, researchers should reconsider what works and what does not work when trying to improve police–citizen relations in Latino communities.
The growth of Latino populations across the United States has probably sparked an interest in increasing ethnic diversity among many police organizations; however, relatively few major departments are primarily Latino, and thus more research is needed on how the changing ethnic composition of these organizations influences the relationship between race/ethnicity and crime. Communities of varying racial–ethnic makeup potentially have unstable relations with criminal justice organizations, especially in regard to police behavior. The extant literature has clearly provided a foundation on which to build an awareness of how Latino police officers interact with others beyond Miami, especially in the southwestern United States, where the history of racial–ethnic relations is very different from that in the rest of the country. Research on perceptions of police by family members, friends, coworkers, school mates, and neighbors of Latino residents who interact with law enforcement agencies routinely remains in short supply.