Panel Transcript: Are Immigrants Less Willing to Report Crime?


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Are Immigrants Less Willing to Report Crime?

Event Summary

One of the most frequently cited justifications for sanctuary policies is the claim that immigrants are less willing to report victimization to authorities. A report was released by the Center for Immigration Studies casts doubt on this claim, using the latest data from the National Crime Victimization Survey.

The report was discussed at a virtual panel discussion on Thursday, October 14, 2021 at 10 a.m. Eastern.

Two of the study's co-authors participated in the panel, Center researchers Jessica Vaughan and Steven Camarota. They were joined by Capt. Keith Harmon of the Collier County, Fla. Sheriff’s Department, which has long experience with ICE's 287(g) program. The panel will be moderated by Mark Krikorian, the Center’s executive director.


Mark Krikorian, Executive Director, Center for Immigration Studies

Steven Camarota, Director of Research, Center for Immigration Studies

Jessica Vaughan, Director of Policy Studies, Center for Immigration Studies

Captian Keith Harmon, Corrections Division, Collier County Sheriff's Office

MARK KRIKORIAN: Good morning. My name is Mark Krikorian. I’m executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

And we’re holding this virtual panel discussion today on a paper we’re releasing today on a topic that may seem kind of esoteric or wonkish. It’s about – it’s an analysis of whether immigrants are less likely to report crimes when they’re victimized by crimes than people who were born here.

Now, you might ask: So what? Who cares? Or, maybe more charitably: That’s interesting but, you know, why are we having this discussion about it? But, in fact, it has real policy consequences, as our presenters will talk about, because the idea that immigrants are afraid to report crimes to police officers because of a fear that they’ll be – that those who are illegal or maybe their family members who are illegal will somehow be found out and deported is the foundational idea behind sanctuary city policies; in other words, that police should have nothing to do with immigration policy – they don’t enforce immigration law as it is, but they shouldn’t even be cooperating with federal authorities in any way because somehow that would scare off immigrants and public safety would suffer. This turns out not to really be supported by evidence, and that’s one of the things we’re going to be talking about today.

The presenters – we’re going to have two of the co-authors of the paper we’re releasing today, which is online at, and then we’re going to have someone from the field actually talk about how this works in the real world. Our first presenter is going to be Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies here at the Center, who is one of the co-authors of the report. The second presenter will be Steven Camarota, director of research here at the Center, who is – who was doing the actual quantitative analysis, the number crunching of this data source, which has some new information in it and so it’s newly useful to shed light on this debate. And then our third presenter is going to be Captain Keith Harmon of the Collier County, Florida Sheriff’s Department, which – you know, he’s going to give us a real-world discussion or real-world look at how this issue of the intersection of immigration policy with local law enforcement works.

After that, we’re going to take questions. You can submit questions any number of ways. If you’re watching this on Twitter, you can reply to the Twitter feed. You can email us at – our communications director at [email protected]. And we’ll be taking some questions after we’re done with this. We’ll probably wrap it up in one hour. We’re starting it at 10:00 Eastern time and we’re going to try to finish and respect people’s time at 11:00.

So if – we’re going to get started now, Jessica. And then Steve will go, and then Captain Harmon. Jessica?

JESSICA M. VAUGHAN: Great. Thank you. And good morning to everyone tuning in.

So the topic of immigrant crime reporting comes up frequently in discussion and debate about how local law enforcement agencies should be engaging with ICE and the Border Patrol, and what policies and practice should – practices should be adopted. I’ve seen this discussed starting around about 9/11 or around the time of the creation of ICE, and that’s when the realization had really hit among the law enforcement community about the need for cooperation and especially information sharing with immigration enforcement authorities. And then a little bit later, after the creation of ICE, when they got the resources to do more enforcement and were able to more strategically put a priority on – and most of their effort on arresting that small fraction of the immigrants in our country who are actually committing crimes and getting arrested at the local level. And that’s about when I remember seeing this raised more and more often as a concern, especially when a program known at the 287(g) program, which allows for local law enforcement agencies to have officers trained and receive delegation of authority to enforce immigration laws. That’s when we started to see this argument being put forward as a concern.

You began to hear immigrant advocates start to claim that, well, look, immigrants are naturally more wary of police and therefore won’t report crimes because they were afraid of police in their home countries. And so, they argued, if law enforcement agencies cooperate with ICE and share information, then there’s going to be a chilling effect on crime reporting by immigrants. And some would go so far as to say, so, you know, crimes will never be solved against immigrants because they won’t be reported.

Well, law enforcement agencies were always skeptical. They would say that’s not what we see. We have robust community policing policies and the benefit to public safety of sharing information with ICE outweighs the risk that people won’t report crimes. But regardless, this narrative about immigrants not reporting crimes caught on despite skepticism from law enforcement and despite a lack of consensus even in the academic research about this question.

The National Crime Victimization Survey, which is the one that serves as the basis for our new report, before only reported about – crime reporting based on ethnicity of those being victimized. But there were some other good studies done – one in Prince William County, Virginia – that looked at this question. But, you know, there was not a consensus.

And so now, as Mark mentioned, this idea of immigrants not reporting crimes as readily as other people in the community is the number-one reason given for having sanctuary policies. And it’s a dilemma for law enforcement. They want to encourage immigrants to report crimes, obviously; they don’t want to stop sharing information with immigration authorities; and they want to refer deportable criminal aliens over to ICE rather than release them back into the community. So most around the country have decided to cooperate routinely and robustly with ICE – sharing information, communicating, and so on. That is the norm for law enforcement agencies around the country. But there are a few big jurisdictions that have sanctuary policies, that don’t cooperate, prohibit – where lawmakers have prohibited local law enforcement agencies from sharing information with ICE. So – back to our study – that’s why we think that this information is important.

The National Crime Victimization Survey is considered to be the most authoritative source of information on victimizations and on crime victims. And notably different from some of the academic research that’s been done, it asks a sample of people: First of all, were you the victim of a crime? If so, did you report it? And if not, why not? Along with some other information about the crimes. And until recently, they did not collect information on foreign – whether people were foreign-born who were answering this survey or whether they were citizens. So, you know, until now – until 2017 wasn’t very useful for examining these questions, but since – you know, since they started asking the respondents if they were immigrants, if they were citizens in addition to their ethnicity, now all of a sudden we have a great way to examine these theories about immigrant crime reporting.

So we obtained three years of responses, 2017 through 2019. And Steve and Karen crunched the numbers, broke down the data in various ways that Steve will tell you about shortly, to try to answer two main questions: Are immigrants really less willing to report victimizations? And can we detect a chilling effect based on state and local policies, whether or not they’re sanctuaries? Well, if you’ve read our invitation to this event, you know the answer is no. Immigrants, we find, according to this data, do not seem to be less willing to report crimes than anyone else.

And Bryan, if you could show the first slide that we have.

This one’s not in the report, but this is a representation of the crime-reporting rates of – on all types of crimes. And you see the blue bar, the first one on the left, is all – is U.S.-born. The green bars are foreign-born or immigrants’ crime-reporting rates. And the yellow bars are the reporting rates of noncitizens, including Hispanic noncitizens, which we think is a good proxy for – that includes illegal aliens. And what you see is that these crime-reporting rates for all crimes are pretty much the same. And Steve is going to talk about the details of these findings, but that’s the basic finding.

And as for this idea of a chilling effect, the existence of that, this – the NCVS DOJ database is not great for examining this question, but when you consider that most of the law enforcement agencies around the country are cooperating routinely with immigration authorities, this finding that immigrant crime rates seem to be very much on par with other groups, this is pretty noteworthy. So when – you know, the norm is cooperation and there does not seem to be a suppressed immigrant crime-reporting rate.

So what do we learn from this? Well, the theory that immigrants in general or even illegal immigrants are especially reluctant to report crimes seems not to be true. That’s great news, especially for those local law enforcement agencies that have been, you know, really paying attention to community policing and encouraging crime reporting from everyone. You know, so that’s a real good thing to hear. And that means that state and local law enforcement agencies should not think that they need to cut off cooperation with immigration authorities – with federal immigration authorities in order to encourage immigrants to report crime generally.

It’s still important to emphasize that by longstanding policy as a general rule victims and witnesses are not targets for immigration enforcement anyway. But it would be helpful, I think, to immigrants to hear from the advocacy groups that this is true, that victims and witnesses are not targets for immigration enforcement generally, instead of pushing this narrative that state and local law enforcement agencies need to cut off cooperation with ICE.

You know, I recently – the last time I testified before Congress in person, I sat next to a witness who was representing a group that advocates on behalf of immigrant victims of domestic violence, and she said that she advises her clients not to report their victimizations to the police because of the risk that they may be referred for deportation. And you know, that seems, I think, to most people obviously a really counterproductive thing to be doing; that, you know, this message that victims and witnesses are not targets is the more important one that benefits immigrants and immigrant communities and law enforcement agencies in going after the offenders. So let’s hope that advocacy groups will start talking about that rather – and, you know, now that we have good, reliable evidence showing that really immigrants are – do seem to be reporting crimes as much as other groups in our communities.

So now I’ll turn it over to Steve and he’ll go for a little bit deeper dive into the numbers.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Jessica.

And, Steve, if you can give us the numbers take without glazing our eyes over too much.

STEVEN A. CAMAROTA: Well, I’ll try. And I will try to keep it brief. The report’s quite long and there are many different levels of analysis in it, but I’ll just hit the highlights, if you will.

OK. As Jessica said, we’re using the National Crime Victimization Survey, which did not ask whether people are citizens or not and whether they’re immigrants until 2017, but now they do. So this is really the first truly representative sample of actual victims. It’s not hypothetical. It’s not would you report a crime. It asks victims specifically: Did you report the crime, what type of crime it was, and so forth. And now we can identify the immigrants.

It’s a panel survey, so they follow people for several years in the same household. It’s a survey of people 12 years of age and over. The one crime it doesn’t include, obviously, because they’re focused on victims, is murders. It also really isn’t a good measure of crimes against young children. But other than that, if the victim survives, it should be a representative sample. And it is basically the gold standard for measuring victimizations.

Now, the immigrant sample is not that big. Immigrants are only about 14 percent of the population, so it’s sometimes a challenge to get a representative sample of that. But because we have three years of data now – ’17, ’18, and ’19 – in which immigrants can be identified, we can use a combined sample. When we look at all crimes, the sample is about 2,800 people who are immigrants in the survey. That’s all types of immigrants – citizen, noncitizen, and so forth.

So, when I use the term “immigrant” here, let me just be clear that I’m talking about what is often referred to by the government as the foreign-born. These are all people who are not U.S. citizens at birth. So it would include naturalized citizens, lawful permanent residents, those with a green card. It’ll also include temporary visitors who get picked up in surveys of this kind. And it’ll also include illegal immigrants.

The survey is actually conducted by the Census Bureau. We know from other Census Bureau surveys that immigrants are captured in these surveys, including illegal immigrants are, in very significant numbers. We know that immigrants, including illegal immigrants, respond to the decennial Census every 10 years. The survey, again, is done by the Census Bureau, but for the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which is part of the Department of Justice.

Now, government publications using this data which come out every year generally focus on what’s called serious crime. Jessica put up a chart of all crime. That includes very serious crimes, but also crimes that are much less serious. Small, petty thefts, for example, make up a lot when you put in all crimes. But when we look at serious crimes, which is what most people use this survey to focus on, it includes things like assault except simple assault. It includes completed burglaries, motor-vehicle thefts, sexual crimes or most sexual crimes. The other thing people look at is serious violent crime – not just serious crime, but serious violent crime – and that, again, includes rape, sexual assaults, robbery, and aggravated assault. So when we’re looking at serious crimes and serious violent crimes, that’s what we’re looking at.

Can we put up Figure 2, please, so we can see this?

So on the left part of the table you see – the figure – is all serious crime, which is basically all the serious violent crime and all the serious property crime together. And what it shows is that immigrants and noncitizens, including Hispanics who are not citizens of the United States, report those crimes at rates that match, or the little asterisk shows when the difference with the U.S.-born or the native-born are statistically significant. So when we look at all serious crime, we find that in some cases not only is the percentage higher, but the difference is statistically significant in this survey. So that would suggest or that’s an indication that when it comes to serious crime, immigrants are at least as likely, including noncitizen Hispanics, to report serious crime as U.S.-born people.

On the other side of the figure is serious violent crime. So this is really the worst type of crime, the most devastating for individuals and communities, the type of crime that we really want everybody to report. This is not petty stuff. This is the worst of the worst. These are all felonies, for example. And what we see on – when we look at serious violent crime is that in every case the immigrants, including noncitizen Hispanics, are more likely to report crime than are the U.S.-born, and all the differences at various levels are statistically significant. So we can say from this data that there’s just no evidence when it comes to serious and serious violent crime that immigrants are reporting them at lower rates to the police. So all that cooperation that takes place between ICE and local law enforcement has not resulted in immigrants, including noncitizens, reporting crimes at lower rates.

Now, there is a group that’s often of special concern. The thought is that within immigrant communities sometimes women especially – especially women who are victims of serious, especially serious violent crime. Let’s put up Figure 3.

And here again we’re looking at serious crimes and serious violent crimes against women. The left side of the table is the serious – all serious crimes, so that’s serious violent and serious property crime. And then the right side is just serious violent crime, which includes, you know, crimes by domestic partners, and all the sexual offenses, and assaults except simple assault, which is usually the least serious. And what we again see is that reporting by immigrant women, including noncitizen Hispanics, tends to exceed reporting by native-born women, those women born in the United States. And I think this is really important.

So part of the fear that, look, you know, immigrant women in particular, especially those here illegally or those who are not citizens of the United States and fear deportation, well, they’re not coming forward – they’re victimized a lot and they don’t come forward – the National Crime Victimization Survey, as you can see here, does not support that inclusion at all. They seem to be coming forward more than does the native-born. Now, we’d like all crimes to get reported so there’s always room for improvement, but it does not appear that they fear the police – that the police are going to do something that they fear and then they don’t go to the police. So I think that that population that we think might be specially vulnerable – women, particularly noncitizens, particularly noncitizen Hispanic women – they’re going to police at rates that match or exceed the native-born.

Now, I could go into a lot more detail, you know, about the report. Let me hit on two other topics before I conclude.

One of the things we looked at, too, was the survey does ask people who didn’t report their crime: Why didn’t you come forward? Why didn’t you go to the police? Now, they have a whole myriad – I believe it’s 21 possible answers that they can give to that question, but there are two that may indicate a fear of deportation. One is that the police would cause me trouble, the police would harass me. And another possible entry is I was advised not to go to the police, like that advocate that – that immigrant advocacy group that Jessica spoke of at the outset.

But when we look at the data, less than 1 percent of all immigrants, including noncitizens, said that if they didn’t go to the police that the reason they didn’t is because they feared the authorities. As best we can tell from this data, immigrants not only are at least and often more likely to go to police, especially for the big crimes, but that when they don’t it doesn’t appear that they fear the police. The main reason that they gave seems to be it was – it was petty, I recovered the property, or it was small stuff, or the police wouldn’t think it was important, and some other reasons like that. But they don’t indicate that distrust of the police and that the police are going to cause them trouble or harass them in some way is the reason. Now, they don’t ask directly about deportation or fear of immigration authorities, but the answers that seem most likely to reflect that fear are seldom given for the subgroup of people who didn’t go to the police.

Now, as Jessica suggested, we can’t use this survey to look at specific communities. The sample’s just not big enough, of the immigrants in particular. And of course, the data doesn’t – the public-use data that we use here doesn’t break it out by state or locality anyway, but again, the sample wouldn’t be big enough. But what we do get, for example, is regions of the country. And this is illustrative of one thing, and that is regions of the country do differ in the level of cooperation with immigration authorities, with the South being the most cooperative whether we look at those that have the 287(g) program.

And so, as you can see from the figure up here, this is the figure that looks by region, and one side looks at all immigrants and the other side looks at noncitizens. We can’t really use this to look deeply at noncitizen Hispanics so much because the sample does get too small, but we can look at all noncitizens. The red bar, I think, is maybe the most interesting. That is the South. That’s where communities routinely cooperate the most or go the extra step and have a 287(g) program. The parts of the country where immigrants cooperate the least tend to be the Northeast and, of course, the West, with states like California being the paradigm example. And yet, when we look at all immigrants, the one statistically significant difference is between the South and the West, with immigrants in the South reporting crimes at 44 percent versus 36 percent for immigrants in the West. Now, that’s for all crimes. Now, I wouldn’t say that that’s definitive evidence, but it does suggest or it’s an indication that cooperation with local immigration authorities does not result in low crime reporting.

We also do some other analysis where we look at community size. Bigger communities are less likely to cooperate, smaller communities are more likely to cooperate with ICE. And again, we could find no obvious relationship. In fact, in many areas when you drill down by region or community size it’s – immigrants are actually more likely, also, to cooperate than are the native-born, which reflects the national pattern. And certainly, we don’t see a variation across region despite differing levels of cooperation.

So I guess the bottom line, I would say, is that the National Crime Victimization Survey does not show, A, that immigrants are less willing to report crime. If anything, when it comes to serious crime they’re more willing, including noncitizen Hispanics. I only made a point of noncitizen Hispanics because it seems likely, based on analysis of other data that the Census Bureau also collects, that probably very roughly two-thirds of noncitizen Hispanics are either in the country illegally in the survey or live with someone in the country illegally, so they should be the most reluctant to come forward. But that’s not really what we see in the data, particularly relative to the native-born.

So, with that, I’ll turn it back over.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Steve.

We’re going to go to Captain Harmon now of Collier County, Florida, to give us a look from the field how does this actually look and work for people working in local law enforcement. And just so you can – I always – it helps me to kind of fix something on a map because I think in terms of maps. Collier County’s in southwestern Florida on the Gulf Coast, kind of opposite Miami but on the other side of the state. So, Captain Harmon, take it away.


First, I just wanted to give a brief introduction of myself and some of my background. I’m the captain of the Corrections Division for the Collier County Sheriff’s Office down in Naples, Florida. I hold both corrections and law enforcement certifications, and I’m in my 22nd year with the sheriff’s office. My entire career has been in the Corrections Division.

So, in 2007, I had to oversee the implementation of our jail 287(g) program. We were the first agency in the state of Florida to sign on to the program. I believe FDOE had signed on previously, but they didn’t utilize it. We signed on in 2007, and at that time you could have both a corrections component and a law enforcement component. We had both components, both corrections and law enforcement. I oversaw the corrections side. The law enforcement side was taken away at a later date, but the JEM – what they call it now, the Jail Enforcement Model – has stayed. So I’ve overseen this program and dealt with the 287(g) program since 2007.

What I’m going to do is I’m going to kind of go over what we do as an agency in reference to the question are immigrants less willing to report crime. Now, this has been a debate for many years. It was a debate prior to us going into the 287(g) program. We knew that going in that this was going to be a question. So we’ve met with advocate groups, politicians, we’ve met with consulates and other organizations to discuss our 287(g) program. We met with them when we were leading up to it, letting them know what we were doing and how we were going to operate.

One of the biggest struggles for a 287(g) is getting everyone to understand how the program operates – what you can and can’t do, and what you’re going to do as an agency. So, as we’ve met – as we met with these groups – you know, consulates, politicians, advocate groups, community organizations – this has been brought up as a sort of chilling effect, as it’s called. And we’ve asked people: Provide us evidence that there’s a chilling effect, that they’re less likely to report crimes if they’re here illegally. To date, no one has been able to show any concrete evidence to us of that.

So we’ve continued throughout the years going out and doing different community topics. As part of a 287(g) agreement, you have to do a steering committee meeting where the sheriff and Immigration and Customs Enforcement do an open forum. You’re required to post it publicly I believe it’s 30 days prior to the steering committee meeting and people can sign up to speak at the steering committee meeting from the general public, from advocate groups, or whatever. So that’s one way we’ve looked at getting information on how we do the program.

But for us as an agency, no one, regardless of anything – ethnicity, immigration status, anything – should be afraid to report a crime to law enforcement. When we come into law enforcement or a as a law enforcement agency, we’re sworn to enforce the laws as they’re written. We can’t pick and choose what laws to enforce. So, for example, they say if you’re doing 287(g) and you’re cooperating with immigration, you’re going to lose the trust of the community. Well, if you don’t enforce the laws equally, it’s the same thing. You’re going to lose the trust of the community if you’re not enforcing the laws as they’re written, OK?

And it’s the expectation of the community that, as a law enforcement agency, we take steps to protect them from becoming victims of crimes. We work diligently. We invest significantly in outreach, all neighborhoods of the community, to reassure everyone. No one should be afraid to ever report a crime to law enforcement. We’ve put policies in place where it prohibits members of our agency to inquire about a subject’s immigration status during traffic stops or consensual encounters. If somebody is arrested for violating, you know, state law, local ordinance, federal law, and they’re arrested and they’re brought to the jail, at that time everybody – regardless of what they look like, every single person that comes into our jail is asked: Where were you born? Are you a U.S. citizen?

We have the 287(g) program. If you state you were born outside the United States or its provinces, then you’re referred to one of our 287(g) deputies who have attended training and are certified under Section 287(g) to act as a designated immigration officer.

We do a lot of outreach to the community. Looking at that again, so we do, you know, back-to-school safety celebrations where we hand out backpacks.

We work very, very closely with our local women’s domestic violence shelter, very closely with them. Our sheriff is actually on their board of directors. We work very closely with them. They refer people to us for – to get visas and we work with them very closely. We do migrant education program outreach.

We have a section of our county which is called Immokalee, Florida. It is a heavily migrant community. It’s a big farming community about 20 miles from our downtown jail. We do a lot of outreach out there. That’s where a lot of the advocate groups come from speaking on behalf of the farmers and stuff like that because the way Immokalee works is, depending on the season and what’s being farmed is what their population is like out there. So we do a lot of public outreach out in Immokalee and different areas of the county.

We do a lot of food-bank safety fairs.

We do helmet giveaways and give away lights for bicycles. For a lot of people that may be their only transportation. Well, under Florida state statute, if you’re riding a bicycle after dark you have to have a light. So we provide lights to them to put on their bikes.

I’m sorry. Can you guys still hear me?

MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah. You’re back.

MR. CAMAROTA: You’re back.

CAPTAIN HARMON: OK. Sorry about that.

So we’ve done hundreds of community inclusive events, from fun safety-oriented activities for the children and safety education for seniors and families.

One thing we do which – since 2007, we’ve done over 600 U-visas for victims of crimes in our county. That’s probably the most in this region of Florida. To date this year, we’ve done 43. We’ve had one of our victim advocates who worked with the subjects that she’s getting U-visas for – the victims that she’s getting U-visas for receive an award in 2014 from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi for the amount of work she was doing with U-visas.

So our look at it is we don’t want you to be afraid to report a crime if you’re a victim. If you’re a victim, we’ll do everything we can – we can do to help you, and that shows with the amount of U-visas we’ve done.

And then I reviewed the report and was looking at some of the policy recommendations, and I could pretty much check off every single one that we already do. But that’s stuff we’ve learned over the years from prior to the implementation of our 287(g) program to when it was implemented and continuously as your biggest thing you have to do is community outreach. Get out to the community. Explain to them what you’re doing and how you do it. Some people are always going to be against it. Some are going to be for it. Some are going to be in the middle.

You’re not going to change everyone’s mind on what you’re doing is right, wrong, indifferent. But a lot of them – or, not a lot – when you explain it, some people realize that you’re not just going out into the community and picking up people because you think they’re illegal. We don’t do that. Our policies prohibit it. No immigration questions are asked by somebody on a traffic stop or consensual encounter. They are asked once you get to the jail after you’re placed under arrest for violating law.

And then so I was looking at some of this stuff. Cultivating a relationship with foreign consulates to enlist their help and explain our laws and justice system is one of your – one of the policy recommendations. We’ve met with consulate groups. We met with a group of about 10 to 12 of them, sat down and had a roundtable with them, explained how we do our program, how we do our consulate notifications to make sure they’re getting notified. We went through that whole process.

We do – we have a Minority Affairs Bureau that goes out and does a lot of community outreach and talking to the public, doing presentations. The sheriff goes out and does presentations on the 287(g) program. We’ve gone out – like, I talked about Immokalee. They have one church out there that is basically the main church/food pantry or anything out in Immokalee. We went out there, we met with their reverend, we met with their delegation, and we explained the program. Some of them, once we explained it and they understood it, they were like, well, that’s not what we’re being told.

And that’s kind of the hurdle you run into when you’re running a 287(g) program. One of the hurdles you run into is we get the information out as much as we can. We can’t go door to door and knock on every door and explain the program to every single person. We get it out the best we can. We meet with the advocate groups, whether you’re against it or for it. and explain the program to them. We ask them: Explain to your constituents how our program is run. We don’t want you telling false things on how our program is because all it does is it creates more hurdles for us trying to reach out to those members and explain it to them.

One of the biggest things with 287(g) is you’re just picking people up that are illegal. I can tell you we don’t do that. Even when we had the rural road patrol side of the 287(g) program, that wasn’t done. Anyone that our roadside, when the picked up, had to have them approved by ICE. So these were people that we knew that were in the community that had been committing crimes that were determined either not legally here or were legally here but subject to deportation based on criminal convictions. Before the roadside – when we had it – could go pick them up, they had to present everything to ICE where ICE would sign off on approving to pick them up. So at no time did our agency ever go out and just arrest people for being here illegally.

We’ve put a process in place. We’re probably the longest-tenured program in the country right now because some programs have stepped down. And as of right now, we’re probably one of the most productive because the priorities change depending on the administration. We started under Bush, went through Obama, went through Trump. Now we’re with the Biden administration. Things have changed through each administration.

When you have a 287(g) program, you have to work under a Memorandum of Agreement per the section of the Immigration and Nationality Act. So we have to function based on what they set the priorities. Sometimes the priorities are not in line with the way the laws are written, but we have to – we have to abide by the MOA and what the priorities are of the current administration – or, the current administration when they’re in office.

At that point, that’s all I have for now, and I’ll turn it back over to you.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Captain Harmon.

We’re going to take some questions now. Let me remind people if you’re – whatever platform you’re watching this on, YouTube or Facebook or Twitter, you can submit a question there or you can email a question to us at [email protected].

The first question is – I think it’s kind of a general one; this might be for Jessica – is: Why do you think this narrative about immigrants not reporting crimes has persisted? You know, is it politically useful to advocacy groups, that kind of thing? In other words, if – I mean, the data shows that there just isn’t that much difference. And like Steve said, on some crimes immigrants seem more likely to report crime. So why is this storyline persisting despite the fact that it does not actually seem to be true?

MS. VAUGHAN: Well, I think it’s for the reason that you – that you suggested, Mark. I think it’s because it was a politically useful narrative to be promoted, but one that is actually counterproductive and may have actually been creating fear among immigrants about reporting crimes.

You know, this is something that comes up in almost every single discussion about sanctuary policies, that this is something that is necessary because immigrants fear police and we need to encourage immigrants to report crimes. And it simply has never been supported by very good evidence. In fact, all the evidence available before, all the attempts to develop evidence – academic research, experience of local law enforcement agencies, the DOJ data itself – all suggested that immigrants report crimes just as much as everyone else. But you know, it – that didn’t stop people from pushing this narrative because it was politically useful as a justification for sanctuary policies.

And of course we would want to have immigrants reporting crime. We wouldn’t want to – them to feel that they don’t have access to services. But you know, I guess it sounded, you know, too good to check or something.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah. And just as a FYI, the paper – which is online at our website, – does actually go over some of those previous studies, and links to them, and you know, addresses the shortcomings in the other research that’s been done on this.

MR. CAMAROTA: Mark, could I just say one thing quick?

MR. KRIKORIAN: Sure, sure. Yeah.

MR. CAMAROTA: The thing is to keep in mind this is really the first nationally representative sample in which we have a big enough population of immigrants to actually evaluate. So part of the reason people could make this argument is it was always indirect and inference, and that’s the way people tried to get at it – unrepresentative samples or one community or the opinion of community leaders. But now we have a direct sample of immigrant victims that’s good, large, and robust, and so that’s what makes this study so unique. And I think it tends to show what many suspected but others had not, that immigrants really do report crimes at least as likely and sometimes more.

MR. KRIKORIAN: There’s another question here. Maybe, Jessica, you have something to say about it, and maybe Captain Harmon has some experience with it. And that’s about these various visas. Captain Harmon was referring to U-visas, which are for immigrants who have been victimized and cooperate with law enforcement, and the law enforcement agency has to certify that they were important in the case. And there’s some other – there’s other programs like this in the immigration law that incentivize immigrants to actually come forward and cooperate. Do you think, Jessica – and, Captain Harmon, do you have any experience with this – where the awareness of these programs actually sort of word spreads and encourages immigrants to actually report crimes? And I would put this – this is my own spin on the question, both in a good way and a bad way. In other words, does it encourage immigrants to report crimes, but is it also yet another way of gaming the immigration system for people who, you know, maybe otherwise wouldn’t have gone this way? Jessica?

MS. VAUGHAN: Well, actually, I was going to suggest we start with Captain Harmon.

MR. KRIKORIAN: OK. Captain Harmon?

MS. VAUGHAN: Since he has the direct experience

MR. KRIKORIAN: On the U-visas, any thoughts on that? Does that really – does it work in encouraging people to come forward and report criminality – I mean, you know, victimization?

CAPTAIN HARMON: It appears so. There’s a process they have to go through to get those U-visas. One of them has to – it has to be basically signed by the sheriff’s office, validating some of the concerns that they’re needed. Some of them could be for domestic violence, where there is a line of domestic violence reports or reports that were taken over time. They also have to go through the state attorney’s office. So they’re vetted by several people before they’re approved through USCIS and everything. They’re vetted.

So it depends. I mean, I don’t know how every area does it. I know for us it would probably be difficult for them to try to game the system to get a U-visa due to the amount of research we do in reference to their claims and working with the women’s shelter with some of their claims, with the relationship we have with them. We have had instances where there was one that was for a murder, and the guy came forward with information, and he – we went through the process to get everything validated, and he ended up getting a visa to allow him to stay here as he was a main witness in the crime based on the information he provided, which was verified. But there’s a whole process that they have to go through in order to get validated and approved for those visas.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Jessica, any thoughts?

MS. VAUGHAN: Yeah. And I would say that’s the way the U-visa program was designed to work, to help victims of certain very serious crimes assist law enforcement agencies in bringing the offenders to justice. It was not meant to be, you know, just an entitlement of legal status for anyone who happens to be a victim of a crime or claims to be. And that’s where I think that the U-visa program has run off the rails a little bit in some places, where it is viewed as an entitlement and something that law enforcement agencies should routinely certify without doing the kind of careful due diligence that’s required under the program rules that is being done in Collier County.

You know, I do talk to law enforcement agencies who tell me that they get victims coming forward who claim to be – you know, have had something happen to them that they can’t verify, that, you know, maybe wasn’t even a crime, that happened in some other jurisdiction, happened a long time ago. We do see these attempts to game the system, and unfortunately they’re clogging up the system because the number of U-visas is limited. You know, so they’re kind of getting in the way of the cases where it’s really important to be able to offer that: domestic violence, gang cases it can be very useful to help people come forward to testify. So I do think there are some serious reforms that need to be made in the U-visas, and one of them would be for law enforcement agencies to be following the intent and rules of the program to make sure that it doesn’t become something that just pops up when somebody is identified for deportation.

MR. KRIKORIAN: And here’s a question for Steve. You kind of addressed it, but maybe you could sort of reiterate it. The question is: Does the data that you looked at really speak to the specific concern that it’s the unauthorized population that are reluctant to report crime, not those who are foreigners but are here illegally? And so, in other words, are illegal immigrants specifically or especially going to be reluctant to report crime to avoid coming to the attention of federal authorities? And what does the data that we’re looking at tell us about that issue?

MR. CAMAROTA: Right. So we have a lot of information on the likely population of illegal immigrants in other Census Bureau-collected surveys. Again, this is done for the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, but it’s done by the Census Bureau. The data is weighted to reflect the whole U.S. population 12 years of age or over not in institutions.

So we know from the analysis of the –

MR. KRIKORIAN: And, Steve, just to clarify, the survey – the National Crime Victimization Survey – does not ask whether you have legal status or not.

MR. CAMAROTA: Right. But –

MR. KRIKORIAN: And so that’s why this stuff you’re talking about is relevant.

MR. CAMAROTA: Right. Right. So we – so it’s well-studied in the American Community Survey and the Current Population Survey. Do illegal immigrants respond? The answer is yes. And they can be identified, and when you do that kind of identification based on all the other information – like when did they come to the United States, age, educational attainment country of origin, and so forth – it looks like about two-thirds of all noncitizen Hispanics are in the country illegally or live with an illegal immigrant.

So when we look at this population of likely illegal immigrants or people who live with illegal immigrants, we don’t find that they report crime at low rates. And often, they report crimes at higher rates than the native-born. So the best we can tell, looking at the population that most closely matches based on a pretty significant body of research that illegal immigrants are not reporting crime, even illegal immigrant women.

Having said that, we don’t attempt to definitively identify illegal immigrants in this survey and we don’t – you know, we don’t know of any research that has done that. But prior research indicates – and we’re pretty certain of that fact – what share of noncitizen Hispanics not in institutions age 12 and over – you know, the target population here – are in the country illegally. And when we look at that population, we just don’t see – I’ll just give you one statistic, right? We find that 53 percent of U.S.-born people report serious crime and noncitizen Hispanic victims report it at 57 percent. So, again, we just don’t find the evidence that they are reporting crimes at low rates, the population that would seem to be the population people often have the biggest concern for, illegal immigrants.

MR. KRIKORIAN: And the report, again, online at The whole report is there. It’s 30-plus pages long with multiple tables where a lot of these issues are specifically broken out – in other words, noncitizen Hispanics, which, as Steve said, is kind of a – it’s not a perfect proxy, but it’s a pretty good proxy for illegal immigrants or people living in households with illegal immigrants. It’s broken out in some detail. Obviously, we don’t want to go into it. We already showed several bar graphs, which is probably several too many bar graphs for a(n) online presentation like this. But it’s all there in detail in the report online.

Here’s a question that probably – I mean, Jessica may have some thoughts on, but I want to see what Captain Harmon has to say about it first. If the issue with these 287(g) programs, which is cooperation between local authorities and federal immigration authorities, if that is – you know, that’s – the data shows that’s not dissuading people from turning from reporting crimes. But let’s just say, you know, theoretically, if it were, what is the advantage of cooperating with local authorities? In other words, the question, the way we’ve got it phrased, was: Does it really matter if police don’t turn criminals over to ICE? Can’t ICE just find them on their own? So what are the benefits that Collier County sees in doing this kind of cooperation with ICE?

CAPTAIN HARMON: Well, some of it is – I mean, I’ll take our jail population, for example. So our jail population, when we started prior to this – prior to this program, we did a survey of our inmate population of the jail and I believe it was 24 percent of the jail population self-admitted to us that they were illegally here. Since we started this program, our jail population went from about 1,100 inmates, this morning I think we’re at – let me see; I could tell you where we’re at for our jail population – I think it was just over 600 – or, 696 is our jail population this morning. Well, in 2007 it was over a thousand. So that’s one thing that helps with the jail population going down and the cost to taxpayers for people that are incarcerated is one aspect of it.

The other one, where you’re talking about why can’t ICE just find them, ICE is not as – well, law enforcement across the board in some areas is not staffed well. And ICE, if you know how long the border is, dealing with the border between ICE and Border Patrol as well as the interior, there’s a lot they have to deal with.

The 287(g) program is somewhat of a force multiplier for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and that’s kind of what we – we work side by side with ICE. We have a program manager out of Miami that oversees our program and we have an office in the county north of us which is the regional office for immigration that cover the local jails in this area. So it is – it is a force multiplier and it is a good relationship for local law enforcement and immigration to have.

Now, me being in the state of Florida, there has been some executive orders signed in by the governor requiring us to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and federal authorities in some cases.

MR. KRIKORIAN: So before Jessica – she may have some thoughts on this, but I was actually wondering, you made clear, obviously – and this is the case everywhere – nobody’s – sheriff’s deputies are not going around asking people for their green cards based on what they look or anything like that. So the people that you end up – end up basically putting into the 287(g) program are people you’ve arrested for other crimes. What are some of the – I don’t know, the top two or three or four kinds of crimes that your deputies arrest people for who then end up being found to be for some reason involved with the immigration system?

CAPTAIN HARMON: It’s crimes – it’s crimes across the board. I mean, I can’t get into specific numbers in reference to some of our stats from our 287(g) program because some of the information obtained from federal databases, so if anyone wants specific numbers for our program they have to do a FOIA through the federal government.

I can tell you from our records on average – people that we place detainers on on average have four misdemeanors and two felonies, either current or previous. Basically, the whole criminal history involved throughout the United States, wherever they’re arrested, we do a criminal history check on everybody that’s arrested. And from the data we’ve had, basically four misdemeanors and two felonies on average.

But the crimes they’re arrested for are across the board. It could be – I mean, yes, some are arrested for no valid DL. Some are arrested for open container. Some are arrested for murder. Some are arrested for sex bat. It’s across the board. So, I mean, that’s pretty much all I can say in reference to the crimes. It’s from open container all the way up to murder.


Jessica, do you have any thoughts on that? In other words, why can’t ICE just go and find them on their own? What’s the problem?

MS. VAUGHAN: Well, the thing is, is, again, as I said before, ICE’s priority is overwhelmingly going after that small fraction of the immigrant population that are committing – are being arrested for state and local crimes. So ICE doesn’t patrol the streets looking for criminals. They depend on local law enforcement agencies to let them know who is in their jails. They can use programs like Secure Communities to identify a lot of them, but you know, with a high number of got-aways and the high criminality in this population of people who were never encountered by the Border Patrol, who slipped past them, you know, those people aren’t going to show up through Secure Communities. They will in a 287(g) program.

But ICE can’t have a presence in every courthouse, you know, finding out when people are convicted. They depend – the most efficient way to do it and the safest way, frankly, to do it is for information sharing for state – you know, for a jail like Collier County to tell ICE: OK, so-and-so is being released on his local charges today. You know, we have a detainer from you. You determined that he was removable. Now’s the time to come and get him. And that’s how it usually works.

You know, because ICE – you know, it’s not safe, for one reason, to have ICE officers patrolling the streets knocking on doors in neighborhoods trying to find these criminals that they want to deport. So that cooperation is really essential. And ICE often has information about criminal aliens that the locals don’t have. So that’s why this information sharing is critical.

MR. KRIKORIAN: A question came in and it’s kind of – I’m not really sure what I think about it, but I think it’s worth bringing up. Somebody asked: If there is no chilling effect, then what other justifications can be offered for sanctuary cities? So in sense, sort of put yourself maybe in the head of these advocacy groups. Is there really any other justification for sanctuary policies other than this apparently mythical chilling effect? Jessica, you have any thoughts on that?

MS. VAUGHAN: Well, I think that the real purpose of sanctuary policies is to thwart enforcement of immigration laws in the interior and to make it as hard as possible for ICE to do its job because – usually because those who advocate for them don’t agree with our immigration laws and think that it should be, you know, impossible to enforce them. They’d rather do away with them, and since Congress has not done that instead they’ve embarked on trying to implement obstacles for ICE, especially at the state and local level despite the implications for public safety.

I mean, you know, there is – it’s hard – I can’t think of a rational justification for a sanctuary policy. You know, things happen. We know, you know, so many cases of immigrants who have reported crimes who, you know, were subjected to their – you know, to more crimes by those offenders when that offender was released because of sanctuary policies when they could have been deported had the local law enforcement agency cooperated with ICE.

MR. KRIKORIAN: I have, let’s see – this is a question that the – that Captain Harmon already kind of addressed, but let’s just finish with this one. Some people critiquing 287(g) programs point to the cost, that it actually – you know, it takes resources – some manpower, what have you – to do this cooperative agreement with the federal government. Is it – is it worth it? In other words, is your experience that there is – that it does use resources, and all resources are limited, and is that use of resources worth it? And does it balance out by, you know, benefits, whether monetary benefits which you suggested – the, you know, fewer people in the jails – but also public safety benefits? That was for you, Captain.

CAPTAIN HARMON: Oh, yes. Yeah. I could say it’s beneficial. From my perspective is you can’t really put a price tag on a victim, whether it be someone who gets murdered – I’m not putting a price tag on somebody’s life.

Does it take resources? Yes, it takes resources. We’ve put things into – I mean, we put things into the process for our staff to work with this and 287(g) because it does take resources. We do have an IGSA, which is Intergovernmental Service Agreement, with Immigration and Customs Enforcement which allows us to house ICE detainees and transport them to local detention facilities where we do receive some reimbursement for our resources. But even though it does take resources, I can’t put a cost on someone’s life or the victims of crimes.

MR. KRIKORIAN: Right. Thank you.

I think we’re going to respect people’s time and end it here. The report, again, is online at It should be right there on the homepage about whether immigrants report crime more or less than the native-born.

And I want to thank all of our participants. Jessica Vaughan and Steve Camarota, their work is all online at our website, again, at And I wanted to thank Captain Harmon.

For those of you interested – more interested in the issue, we’ve published a good deal on this topic of immigration enforcement and criminal justice local law enforcement at our website, at And also, for those of you just interested generally in the topic, we have a weekly podcast, as well, that you can subscribe to. It’s called Parsing Immigration Policy. It’s at all the usual podcast places. And this presentation itself will be on our website within a day or two if you want to rewatch it or if you missed something.

So I appreciate your joining us and I hope you’ll join us for our next event. Thank you.