Illegal immigration and the treatment of illegal immigrants is a controversial issue around the globe. Engendered with a history of racism, security concerns and exploitation, even a discussion about the rules of reporting illegal immigrants can result in heated discussion or outright fighting. The rules about reporting immigrants are often somewhat fuzzy; they change from region to region, and often do not clearly distinguish between situations where a person has a duty to report or merely an option to do so.
Very few areas have laws that make reporting illegal immigrants mandatory. Sometimes, law officials may be entrusted with a duty to report a possible immigration issue if they have reasonable belief that the person is in the region illegally, but even these requirements are often vague and contradictory. Employers may sometimes be subject to fines and even criminal charges for knowingly employing illegal immigrants or for failing to exert due diligence in making sure a worker's papers are in order.
Even those who have the right to report illegal immigrants may decide against the option. In 2009, the Italian Senate passed a bill that eliminated a ban which had prevented doctors from reporting suspected illegal immigrants to authorities. Many Italian doctors publicly announced their refusal to volunteer immigration information, on the grounds that it is both outside of their jurisdiction and that such a measure will prevent people from seeking necessary and sometimes life-saving care. Doctors in many other countries, including the United States, have echoed this position on the grounds that it may pose a risk to public safety. It is very rare that failure to report illegal immigrants constitutes a crime for the average citizen.
There is also a prevalent stigma that suggests that people reporting illegal immigrants are motivated only by racism. On the contrary, reporting illegal immigrants is sometimes done to protect immigrants from exploitation. Some employers hire illegal immigrants and subject them to dangerous conditions or pay substandard wages, ruling them with the constant threat of calling immigration authorities. Some immigrants' rights groups suggest that more reporting could actually help the cause of immigrants by ridding societies of parasitic employers that prey on this vulnerable group.
Reporting illegal immigrants is often done by contacting local authorities. Since police organizations do not always concern themselves with immigration issues, it may be more efficient to contact the state or federal immigration department. In the United States, the Department of Homeland Security allows citizens to report illegal immigrants through anonymous hotlines. In the United Kingdom, similar services are provided by the UK Border Agency. Legal experts suggest that it is vitally important to use these services responsibly and only if there is a reasonable belief that a person is an illegal immigrant.