Date of Award

Fall 10-18-2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Dr. Volkan Topalli

Second Advisor

Dr. Richard Wright

Third Advisor

Dr. Scott Jacques

Abstract

Immigrants, particularly those lacking formal documentation, have increasingly been stereotyped as increasing crime rates, stealing employment from American citizens, abusing social services, and, since the 1990s, as being of Mexican descent. In an effort to address many of the public and political concerns, legislation since the 1990s has criminalized many immigration infractions, reduced access for law enforcement through partnerships with immigration enforcement, and reduced rights for immigrants facing deportation proceedings. Collectively, these policies have created a population of vulnerable targets who are unable turn to the police if victimized and may face additional legal sanctions if reported. Media and scholar reports suggest that undocumented immigrants are increasingly targeted by predatory street offenders for robbery, burglary, and carjacking. This study utilizes interviews from 11 active street offenders to understand if, and to what extent, street offenders target “Mexicans.” This study also sought to parallel the existing literature scholars utilizing interviews with undocumented victims of street crime. I compare previous academic hypotheses regarding immigrant vulnerability with the perceptions of vulnerability by street offenders. The results support the notion that undocumented immigrants are explicitly targeted by street offenders, support the use of Routine Activities Theory as an explanatory mechanism for immigrant victimization, and provide preliminary support for several hypotheses regarding perceived immigrant vulnerability. The results also support the notion that street offenders stereotype undocumented immigrants as being of Latino descent, that offenders are differently motivated by perceived immigration status and criminal involvement, and, to a lesser extent, utilize mainstream stereotypes to justify victimization.

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