Michigan Journal of Race & Law
Violeta R. Chapin, ¡Silencio! Undocumented Immigrant Witnesses and the Right to Silence, 17 Mich. J. Race & L. 119 (2011), available at https://scholar.law.colorado.edu/faculty-articles/157.
At a time referred to as "an unprecedented era of immigration enforcement," undocumented immigrants who have the misfortune to witness a crime in this country face a terrible decision. Calling the police to report that crime will likely lead to questions that reveal a witness's immigration status, resulting in detention and deportation for the undocumented immigrant witness. Programs like Secure Communities and 287(g) partnerships evidence an increase in local immigration enforcement, and this Article argues that undocumented witnesses' only logical response to these programs is silence. Silence, in the form of a complete refusal to call the police to report crime or participate in local prosecutions, is a potent and defensible act of civil disobedience by the estimated twenty-two million immigrants in this country with anything less than full-citizenship status.
There is a growing body of empirical evidence showing that local immigration enforcement leads to racial profiling, is unjustifiably expensive for local crime-fighting budgets, and results in the local immigrant population simply deciding not to call the police for any reason at all. This Article takes those arguments one step further, contending that immigrant communities can take matters into their own hands and protect themselves by choosing silence as an organized response to a regime that has rendered local police a threat, not a support, to millions of people within our borders. A commitment to silence by the immigrant community will lend a sense of urgency to these protests and spur real action from local law enforcement officials who appreciate the dangers of prioritizing immigration enforcement over community safety for all residents, citizen and noncitizen alike.
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