People in the immigrant rights community feared that the anti-immigrant rhetoric that helped Donald Trump become president would cause immigrants to view with suspicion law enforcement particularly and the government in general. Recently, the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project (NIWAP) released a study, “Promoting Access to Justice for Immigrant and Limited English Proficient Crime Victims in an Age of Increased Immigration Enforcement: Initial Report from a 2017 National Survey,” and it shows the concerns were well-founded.
The survey compares data from 2016 and 2017, and it shows a growing distrust of authority, which first manifests as immigrant crime victims and Limited English Proficiency (LEP) immigrants being reluctant to report crimes, request assistance or protection, and cooperate with criminal investigations. That is worrisome because it makes it harder for police to investigate crimes in immigrant communities. There has been a 391 percent decrease in the number of battered immigrant spouses and children to petition for themselves under the Violence Against Women Act when the abusers are U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
The fear that cooperation or involvement with law enforcement will make them and their families targets for scrutiny and potentially removal has made immigrants less likely to initiate or be a part of legal actions, even if it isn’t connected to the immigrant community. The rhetoric connects to decisions by the Department of Homeland Security under Trump to create a credible fear that any interaction with authorities could result in removal. On Monday, DHS announced that it would refer anyone crossing the border illegally for federal prosecution, even if the person is seeking asylum. Among other things, that would result in families being split up, and such inhumane actions make other feared outcomes seem possible. Because of this reluctance, some crimes are harder to prosecute—domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and child abuse tops among them.
For the full survey, visit NIWAP’s website.