Police and immigration enforcement: Impacts on Latino(a) residents' perceptions of police

Guadalupe Vidales, Kristen M. Day, Michael Powe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Recent years have witnessed a national policy shift towards involving state and local police in enforcing US federal immigration laws. Critics argue that involving local police in enforcing immigration law will decrease Latino(a) and immigrant residents' willingness to report crime and their cooperation with the police, and will also increase racial profiling and negatively impact documented and undocumented residents. This paper aims to examine Latino(a) residents' perceptions of the police before and after an extended local controversy about involving police in enforcing immigration laws in Costa Mesa, California. Design/methodology/approach: The paper reports findings of a before-and-after study in the Westside area of the City of Costa Mesa, California. Methods include Spanish and English language telephone surveys of Latino(a) and non-Latino(a) residents in the Westside (n=169 respondents before and n=91 respondents after), conducted in 2002 and in 2007. Findings: In survey responses, Latino(a) residents report that they are more likely to be stopped by the police in 2007 compared to 2002. Latino(a) respondents also have more negative perceptions of the police, find the police less helpful, feel less accepted in the community, and say that they are less likely to report crimes after the controversy, compared to before. Originality/value: The findings show the importance of policies that encourage cooperation with and trust of the police. These results can help inform cities about the potential impacts of involving local police in immigration enforcement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-653
Number of pages23
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 6 2009


  • Ethnic groups
  • Immigration
  • Perception
  • Police
  • United States of America

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Public Administration
  • Law


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