Originally published by Mother Jones
President Donald Trump’s January executive orders on immigration worried advocates working with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, who argued that their clients and other victims of crime would no longer be willing to seek help or cooperate with law enforcement. Their concerns were further justified when police departments in Los Angeles and Houston announced that Latinos in those cities were reporting sexual assaults at lower rates in the wake of hostile rhetoric and enforcement activity targeting undocumented immigrants. Now, a new survey provides the data that demonstrates a noticeable shift in immigrant survivors’ contacts with victim services providers in recent months.
“The results of this survey are troubling,” Cecilia Friedman Levin, senior policy counsel for ASISTA Immigration Assistance, said in a recent press call discussing the survey results. “It represents that there is uncertainty and distrust around the institutions that are supposed to provide [survivors] with protection and safety.”
- 62% of respondents—a group that includes both social and legal services providers—said they have seen an increase in immigration-related questions from survivors;
- 78% of respondents said that survivors had expressed concerns about contacting police due to fears that it would open them up to deportation;
- 75% said that survivors had expressed concerns about going to court for a matter related to their abuser, a concern that was likely exacerbated by thehighly reported courthouse arrest of a domestic violence victim seeking a protective order against her abuser earlier this year;
- 43% of respondents also said that the survivors they have worked with have dropped criminal or civil cases related to their abuse because they were fearful of potentially opening themselves up to enforcement.
Anecdotes from respondents also shed light on the increased level of fear among immigrant survivors. “Survivors have a lot of questions about how they can safety plan under the new administration,” the report says, adding that some victims now question if they should submit petitions for relief to the federal government. In another response, the survey report notes that a 16-year old survivor attempted suicide because she feared that her offender would report her family to federal enforcement officials.
Those who actually work with immigrants disagree. They say public safety will suffer if harsh immigration policies are allowed to push immigrant survivors into the shadows. “The fear [among immigrant survivors] is still rampant,” Archi Pyati, chief of policy and programs at the Tahirih Justice Center, a group working with women and girls fleeing gender-based violence, told Mother Jones. “So long as the federal government continues down this road there are going to be immigrant women who are going to be hurt.”