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Violence Against Immigrants on the Rise

17 January 2014 No Comment

Courtesy WLBT, from the story “Racial Slurs Allegedly Used During Task Force Search”

There’s a perception that immigrants (especially Latinos) carry cash. Not just a little cash, but several hundred dollars at a time. The perception is actually true in many cases, and that’s because most banks deny checking or savings accounts to anyone who does not have a social security number. As a result, many Latinos in our area have no way to manage their finances other than carrying their money, in cash form, in a wallet or purse.

Criminals intent on robbery and assault frequently go after Latinos, who are perceived as “easy targets.” Criminal types know that they can pick up some quick cash, but they also know that they can most likely get away with the crime.

Paired with this increased level of criminal violence against immigrants is something just as dangerous—indifference and even discrimination from local law enforcement. As we’ve reported before, robberies and assaults against immigrants occur more and more, but local police haven’t made much effort to investigate or locate attackers. Officers who arrive at the scene of a crime are unable to speak Spanish, and seem unconcerned with tracking down perpetrators. And there are even more extreme examples of police discrimination, such as the violent assault against a Latino family, carried out by US Marshals Fugitive Task Force.

Criminal targeting and police indifference are a dangerous combination for local immigrants. Recently, we’ve seen attacks against convenience store clerks and young people playing soccer. The criminal perception is that immigrants are a vulnerable class, and attacks against them are likely to be ignored or quietly swept under the rug.

If you are in the habit of carrying cash instead of using a bank account, you’re at risk. A number of banks may have denied you an account, but that’s not the end of the story—we’ve found several local banks that will provide an account WITHOUT requiring the SSN.

These banks include: Hope Federal Credit Union, Bancorp South, Bank of Morton, and Wells Fargo. Several years ago, MIRA started discussions with these institutions that resulted in a change in policy so that ITIN holders (or other forms of taxpayer ID #) can also open bank accounts. Many of these banks will help individuals establish the alternate taxpayer IDs if they do not already have one.

We urge you to get an account set up right away and begin using debit cards in place of cash. This is much more secure for you, and you can even use the debit cards as a means of getting money to family members in other locations. Instead of using a traditional money transfer system which ends up costing a lot of money in fees, you can send a debit card to your loved one and have them either use the card itself or withdraw money from an ATM.

On a positive note: in recent months we have seen efforts from local police departments to improve relationships with immigrant communities. For example, Hinds County Sheriff Tyrone Lewis has hired bilingual deputies and dispatchers to assist when victims of crime only speak Spanish. And Jackson’s police department, led by Chokwe Lumumba’s initiatives, is taking steps to deal with indifference and discrimination by members of the force, and working to become more responsive to immigrants.

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