DOUG ROSS: Illegal immigrants' help needed to fight crime

2012-07-04T00:00:00Z DOUG ROSS: Illegal immigrants' help needed to fight crimeBy Doug Ross, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357

As much as I try to connect the dots on major issues, sometimes those dots seem to connect themselves. That has been happening on illegal immigration lately.

Some of these recent developments you already know about, such as President Barack Obama announcing that young illegal immigrants wouldn't be deported unless they committed a crime. The DREAM Act, previously promoted by U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Dick Lugar, R-Ind., would create a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants who came here not of their own will but because their parents brought them.

Send them back to their home country? The United States is all they've ever known.

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the Arizona immigration case last week is still fresh in people's minds.

State Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, is elated that Indiana sent the feds a $131 million bill late last week to cover the cost of state services used by illegal immigrants since July 1, 2011. It's purely a poke in the feds' eye in frustration over federal immigration enforcement here.

That same law prohibits local police from checking the citizenship status of crime victims and witnesses.

Which brings us to East Chicago Police Chief Mark Becker.

Becker spoke with the The Times Editorial Board on Thursday. We discussed the problems of controlling crime in a city with perhaps a thousand illegal immigrants. It's not the problem you might think.

Sure, there are illegal immigrants who commit violent crimes, but the more prevalent and intriguing problem is the victimization of illegal immigrants.

When you think about it, this makes sense. Illegal immigrants are afraid to report crimes for fear they will be deported, so they stay quiet. And because they don't report the crimes, the criminals know they can continue to victimize these people with little fear of repercussion.

Becker, a former FBI agent, says he is more concerned about fighting crime than about residents' legal status. But reaching out to them is difficult.

It's going to take time to build trust among illegal immigrants, so Becker is reaching out to the appropriate organizations. Eventually, someone will get to know Becker well enough to discover his integrity. Then others will follow the lead and start reporting crimes.

"That's not something that's going to happen overnight," Becker acknowledges. But when it does happen, it will be easier to crack down on crime in the city.

On the Fourth of July, I remember that the United States is a nation of immigrants, made stronger because of the influx of new ideas. Many immigrants will become U.S. citizens today. Good for them.

But I also see the immigration issue adding to political strife here. Let's figure out how to help more immigrants trust American institutions like the local police and proper immigration procedures. In the process, maybe more citizens will respect our government again.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Follow him on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

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