Reports of domestic violence among Latino residents in California have dropped sharply in 2017 — but not for any reason worth celebrating.
Reports of domestic violence are dwindling because undocumented victims within immigrant communities are now terrified that asking for police protection could lead to a potentially worse nightmare than the one they’re already living:
They fear the police will call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents on them if they call them to the scene. They fear that stepping into the courthouse to ask for an order of protection against their abuser will essentially have the same result.
They’re also afraid that even if ICE doesn’t pick them up immediately after the emergency hearing, an ICE agent could be waiting to meet them when they return for a hearing on a permanent order.
This situation is leaving the victims of domestic violence and their children in perilous situations — with many enduing constant threats and abuse. Most parents assume that they would be forcibly separated from their children if their children are United States citizens. In many cases, that means the children would be then given to their abusers.
The statistics are fairly dramatic. In some areas, domestic violence calls by Latinos has dropped off 18 percent so far this year — while the percentage of calls from non-Latinos hasn’t changed much at all.
Abusers have caught on, too. Many will now threaten to call ICE and get a victim deported in order to keep the victim in his or her control.
The Los Angeles County sheriff wants Latinos and other immigrants to know that they don’t inquire about immigration status when they’re responding to a domestic violence call or addressing a violation of a protective order. In addition, ICE officials in LA want people to know that they also don’t arrest crime victims.
However, the problem extends far beyond the LA area. Police are hoping to get the word out to immigrants — documented and undocumented — that it is safe to call for help. In fact, ICE agents will often help accelerate a visa status to those who are victimized.
If you’re an undocumented immigrant who fears deportation and removal after reporting sexual and physical abuse, talk to an attorney today for guidance.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Fearing deportation, many domestic violence victims are steering clear of police and courts,” James Queally, Oct. 09, 2017