Local News

Reporting crime a Catch-22 for illegal immigrants

Posted September 22, 2008 6:30 p.m. EDT
Updated September 22, 2008 7:03 p.m. EDT

— When Jose Luis Segura-Rios called authorities to report that he was the victim of a home invasion, they charged him with a crime as well.

Now, his attorney says, his case and others like it are likely to keep Latinos from reporting crimes.

Law enforcement agencies across the state are cracking down on illegal immigration, and new partnerships with federal officials are leading to more arrests.

But if illegal immigrants fear they cannot report crimes, some say they will turn into easy targets and will be unwilling witnesses.

In Segura-Rios' case, he showed Wake County investigators fake Mexican identification last week after reporting the robbery at his Knightdale home.

In the chaos at the scene, he was also struck with a deputy's baton, leaving a bruise.

"I went down, turned around, and when I tried to go down, he hit me," Segura-Rios said.

Sheriff's investigators have charged four people in the home invasion, but Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said that at the time, it was unclear if Segura-Rios was a suspect.

"The officer was doing what he had to do to make sure of the safety of the officer and other officers," Harrison said.

Harrison said he felt obligated to contact federal immigration officials two days later when Segura-Rios showed authorities what they believed to be a fake ID and because of other suspected illegal activity. No other charges have been filed, however.

"When we don't have the proper names to people that we're investigating, whether it be victims or whatever, we have to investigate to make sure we've got a case," Harrison said.

Deputies detained Segura-Rios. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained his brother on a fraud charge in another state. Only one of the four people who lived at Segura-Rios' home had proper documentation, officials said.

Segura-Rios says Latinos are fearful of law enforcement, and his attorney, Robert Nunley, says cases like this make them less likely to report crime.

"If we're interested in the big picture, I would much rather have people who are doing home invasions deported and jailed than I would someone who's working eight to 10 hours a day, four, six, seven days a week," Nunley said.

Immigration attorney Jack Pinnix says the country, overall, is struggling to find balance.

"We ought to have a national law that works, and the federal government hasn't provided us that."

Pinnix says local governments need guidance.

"It's a nationwide problem," he said. "We shouldn't have sanctuary cities or Old West cities."