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Citizenship, fear and support for the criminalization of immigration: Contextualizing Mexican Americans’ attitudes about the role of law enforcement

Gia Barboza (Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Silvia Dominguez (Department of Sociology, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Laura Siller (School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Miguel Montalva (Department of Sociology, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 15 May 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the association between Mexicans’ support for the criminalization of immigration and level of police contact, fear of deportation and the perceived personal impact of immigration enforcement.

Design/methodology/approach

This analysis uses data from the 2008 National Survey of Latinos, a representative random sample of 1,153 self-identified Latino/as residing in the USA. The authors sought to identify the prevalence of Latino support for local police actively identifying undocumented immigrants and to examine the relationship between acculturation, confidence in the police and/or fear that immigrants increase neighborhood crime and support for the criminalization of immigration. The authors use logistic regression analysis and post-estimation techniques to explore the relationship between support for the criminalization of immigration and acculturation, discrimination, perceptions of crime and confidence in the police.

Findings

The authors found that Latino policy attitudes are not monolithic but differ by nativity and citizenship status and vary according to their level of confidence in fair and proper police enforcement of the law. Within levels of confidence, the authors found that the perception that immigrants increase local crime rates was a significant predictor of policy attitudes. Contrary to the authors’ expectations, neither previous contact with the criminal justice system nor being stopped and asked about immigration status predicted support for criminalizing immigration. Nor did level of support vary according to proficiency in English and perceptions of discriminatory treatment.

Practical implications

This study has implications for understanding how citizenship statuses influence public opinion on issues that are presumed to be reflective of a unified political voice.

Social implications

This study has implications for understanding the role of social stigma and political socialization and their relationship to Mexican citizens and non-citizens policy preferences.

Originality/value

No study to date has explored associations between Latinos’ policy attitudes on the criminalization of immigration and acculturation, fear of crime and confidence in the police.

Keywords

Citation

Barboza, G., Dominguez, S., Siller, L. and Montalva, M. (2017), "Citizenship, fear and support for the criminalization of immigration: Contextualizing Mexican Americans’ attitudes about the role of law enforcement", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 40 No. 2, pp. 197-213. https://doi.org/10.1108/PIJPSM-03-2016-0041

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited