Comino S., Mastrobuoni G., Nicolò A. (2020).

Silence of the Innocents: Undocumented Immigrants’ Underreporting of Crime and their Victimization. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp. 1214-1245.



Do undocumented migrants underreport crimes to the police in order to avoid being deported? And do criminals exploit such vulnerability? We address these questions using victimization surveys and administrative data around the 1986 U.S. immigration amnesty. The amnesty allows us to solve two major identification issues that have plagued this literature: migrants’ legal status is endogenous and unobserved.

The results show that the reporting rate of undocumented immigrants is 17 percent, which limits the immigrants’ ability to protect some of their fundamental human rights. However, right after the 1986 amnesty, which disproportionately legalized individuals of Hispanic origin, crime victims of Hispanic origin show enormous improvements in reporting behavior. The implied increase in the reporting rate by amnesty applicants is close to 20 percentage points.