Being Undocumented Shouldn’t Mean Being Victimized by Criminals

Being Undocumented Shouldn’t Mean Being Victimized by Criminals

The Trump administration claimed it would be targeting criminals to be deported, but instead criminals are the ones benefiting from increased immigration enforcement. Undocumented immigrants in Kentucky fear that if they report crimes they’ll be the ones being deported. Criminals are playing on their fears and blackmailing them into silence, reports the New York Times.

One example is Domenica, who lives in Houston. Her boyfriend and father of her two children is a U.S. citizen. She has been in the country illegally since 1995. She says she’s been sleeping with a gun under her pillow for years because of his beatings and threats to kill her and their kids. He often reminded her that she could be deported if she went to the police. In August, Domenica and her kids fled their home instead of calling the police, fearing that if she had to appear in court she’d be deported and lose her kids.

Houston’s police chief, Art Acevedo, told the Times that the city’s 16% decline in domestic violence reports from the Hispanic community was due to immigration enforcement and an increasingly hostile political climate concerning the issue of illegal immigration. That decline came about despite the fact that the city’s Hispanic community (44% of the city) grew significantly.

A February 2017 incident in El Paso shows the dilemma undocumented victims of domestic abuse face. An undocumented, Mexican transgender woman went to a courthouse to file for a protective order against her ex-boyfriend. She was detained by federal agents instead.

There have been declines in crime reporting by immigrants across the country. Though this community hasn’t been very open to the police, many of the steepest declines began early in 2017, when President Trump took office and ordered an increase in deportations.

Police officers, victims’ advocates and prosecutors from across the country were surveyed by the American Civil Liberties Union. They found many reports that undocumented immigrants are more reluctant to call the police, press criminal charges and testify against assailants. Most of the prosecutors (82%) stated that domestic abuse cases have become harder to prosecute.

The situation is especially difficult in Texas where state law requires local law enforcement to cooperate with immigration officials. Local officials face jail time and fines of more than $25,000 if they refuse to honor federal “detainer” requests. Houston, Dallas, Austin and other Texas cities with large Hispanic populations have joined in a lawsuit to overturn the law. The statute was largely upheld in a federal appeals court earlier this year, but the court is considering a request for a rehearing.

One way to blunt the state law is not to have Houston police officers ask those they encounter their immigration status. Domestic violence victims are also seeking more help outside the police. The Houston Area Women’s Center saw an increase in Hispanic women seeking help.

Those working on its hotline tell callers about their legal rights and advise them to disclose their immigration status, so they might apply for special legal protections that may be available (the U visa). It requires the person to cooperate with the police in their investigation. A major problem with the visa is that only 10,000 can be granted while last year 35,000 people applied for them.

For an administration so concerned about law and order, it doesn’t seem to be a priority when undocumented immigrants are the ones victimized by crimes. If you or a loved one lives in Fayette County, Kentucky, or the surrounding area, and you have questions about immigration law or need representation in an immigration matter, Carman & Fullerton can help you, whether you speak English, Spanish or another language. Your future and that of your family is at stake, so contact us today.