V. Victimization Experienced by Immigrants
Crime committed by immigrants has been a topic for research for more than a century, but little attention has been paid to victimization experienced by immigrants. In recent years, research has begun to explore the extent and nature of crime against immigrants. Overall, immigrants tend to have a higher level of victimization and fear of crime as compared with the native-born, but there are differences across types of victimization.
A. Property Crime Victimization
Limited research suggests that immigrants do not experience higher property victimization rates than native-born individuals, except theft. Factors related to the risk of victimization, including being young and single, living in public housing, and living in an urbanized environment, are the same for immigrants and native-born persons.There is speculation, however, that the rates of property victimization experienced by immigrants may be much higher than what has been reported and that many crimes against immigrants go unreported because they are reluctant to come forward. Another reason is that many new immigrants are poor and live in high-crime neighborhoods, and they do not understand the environment risks in the United States.
B. Violent Crime Victimization
Most studies on victimization among immigrants have tended to focus on homicide. These studies have found that immigrants were at higher risk of becoming a homicide victim than native-born people. According to Martinez and Lee (2000), the rate of homicide victimization among the foreign-born was 23 per 100,000, compared with 18 per 100,000 among the native-born. Foreign-born Mariel Cubans in Miami experience a homicide victimization rate that exceeds the average city rate, but their homicide victimization rate was still lower than that among African Americans. Studies conducted by Sorenson and Shen (1996) and Sorenson and Lew (2000) have revealed similar findings. Immigrants in California were overrepresented in homicide victimization statistics. In 1990, immigrants constituted 23% of California’s residents and 33% of California’s homicide victims. There were variations across ethnic–racial groups, however. Among non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, and blacks, immigrants had higher homicide rates than their native-born counterparts, but foreign-born Asians and native-born Asians had similar rates. In addition, patterns of victim–offender relationships in homicide victimizations among immigrants and natives also differed. Homicides by non-strangers were more common among the native-born than among the foreign-born, and the suspects of homicides against native-born victims were much more likely to be native-born, but suspects of immigrant homicides were more likely to be unknown. When the suspects were known, offenders of homicide against the foreign-born tended to also be foreign-born.
C. Victimization Among Undocumented Immigrants
Undocumented immigrants are at a heightened risk of victimization and have few outlets for dealing with crime. Violent acts against undocumented immigrants range from drive-by shootings to assaults and thefts. Among undocumented immigrants, day laborers, who search for work on a daily basis in a public and visible spaces, such as a busy street, sidewalk, storefront, or empty parking lot, encounter violence primarily from other day laborers; police; their employers; and, to a lesser extent, merchants and local residents. According to Valenzuela (2006), day laborers are particularly vulnerable to theft because most of them do not have bank accounts where they can deposit their earnings. Opening a bank account usually requires the provision of an individual taxpayer identification number, which most day laborers do not possess. As a result, they are usually paid in cash for their work. The fact that they often keep cash on their person, combined with their reluctance to call the police, which is often due to their unfamiliarity with U.S. institutions and their lack of legal documents, makes them an easy target. Day laborers are also exposed to violence at hiring sites that are controversial or particularly volatile as a result of community conflicts. Limited data on anti-immigrant violence indicate that the intensity and frequency of immigrant bashing vary across regions. Perry (2000) indicated that anti-immigrant violence tends to be most prevalent in areas with disproportionate shares of newly arrived immigrants, such as New York, New Jersey, Arizona, California, and Texas. In particular, in California, Arizona, and Texas both legal and illegal immigrants experience border violence, ranging from verbal taunts to rock throwing and shots fired by vigilantes and border patrol agents.