The purpose of this study was to examine
interrelated issues surrounding the use of the criminal justice system
by immigrant victims and to identify ways to improve the criminal
justice response to immigrants' needs and problems. Questions
addressed by this study can be broadly divided into two categories:
issues pertaining to reporting crimes and involvement with the court
system by immigrant victims. Some crime reporting questions are: To
what extent do immigrant populations underreport crimes to the police?
Is underreporting more characteristic of some immigrant groups than
others? What are the principal reasons for underreporting? Which types
of crimes are most and least likely to be reported to authorities?
What is the experience with the police of immigrants who do report
crimes? What kinds of institutional barriers exist to reporting crimes
to the police, and what could be done to remove the barriers?
Questions concerning court system involvement include: Are immigrant
victims who do report crimes willing to cooperate with court officials
in prosecuting? If they are reluctant, what are their reservations?
What institutional barriers exist to cooperating with court officials
in prosecuting and adjudicating cases?
This study takes an exploratory look at a set of
interrelated issues surrounding use of the criminal justice system by
immigrant victims. A variety of convergent methods were used to
address the issues examined. Respondents to a national survey of
police chiefs, prosecutor agencies, and court administrators from the
50 largest United States cities were asked their opinions about the
extent to which victims who were recent immigrants have equal access
to the criminal justice system and about impediments to fuller
participation. Upon completion of the national survey, New York City
and Philadelphia were selected for intensive investigation.
Neighborhoods with a strong multi-ethnic character were examined. In
New York's Jackson Heights area, Colombians, Dominicans, and Indians
were studied. In Philadelphia's Logan section, Vietnamese, Cambodians,
and Koreans were surveyed. Interviews in Jackson Heights were
conducted over the telephone by multilingual Victim Services staff. In
all, 87 Jackson Heights victims were interviewed. Of the 26
Philadelphia victims interviewed, 12 were interviewed in person in
their homes, and 14 were interviewed by telephone. The interviews in
Philadelphia were conducted by local Asian ethnic contractors. Those
individuals who reported crimes to the police were asked about their
experiences with the police and/or the court. For persons who failed
to report a crime, reasons for their reluctance in reporting were
This study began with a national survey of police chiefs,
prosecutors agencies, and court administrators from the 50 largest
United States cities. Two cities, New York City and Philadelphia, were
selected for additional intensive investigation. In each of these two
cities, convenience samples were obtained from one neighborhood and
three immigrant communities chosen for participation. In New York's
Jackson Heights area, Colombians, Dominicans, and Indians were
studied. In Philadelphia's Logan section, Vietnamese, Cambodians, and
Koreans were surveyed.
All immigrants in the United States from 1980 to 1990.
personal and telephone interviews
Variables include type of crime,
respondent's role in the incident, relationship to the perpetrator,
whether the incident was reported to police, and who reported the
incident. Respondents were also asked whether they were asked to go to
court, whether they understood what the people in court said to them,
whether they understood what was happening in their case, and, if
victimized again, whether they would report the incident to the