Latinas’ Fear Of Immigration Enforcement Brings Steep Drop In Reports Of Sexual Assaults

Los Angeles is struggling with the bitter fallout from Donald Trump’s immigration enforcement policies. The city’s Latinas have backed off of reporting both sexual assaults and domestic violence because they don’t want ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to rip their families apart as the result of an investigation.

During the first few months of 2017, the Latino community reported 25% fewer instances of sexual assault than during the same period last year, and 10% fewer cases of domestic violence. According to LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, no other demographic has seen a similar decline. At a news conference, Beck said:

Imagine a young woman—imagine your daughter, sister, mother, your friend—not reporting a sexual assault because they are afraid that their family will be torn apart. That’s not what L.A. is about. That is certainly not what this mayor is about. And it’s not what the Los Angeles Police Department is about.

Immigration Enforcement Damages Local Relations With Police

But it is what the federal government is all about. Officers with ICE are damaging the relationship that the local police have with the Latino community. In February, city officials asked ICE to stop identifying themselves as ‘police’ when they make raids for immigration enforcement. The term leads residents to believe they are dealing with the LAPD, not federal agents, and undoes all the hard work the local police put into building trust with the community. As city attorney Mike Feuer said:

With the turbulence that we’re living in right now, the last thing we need is to send immigrants who may be undocumented into the shadows. These are not abstract concerns. When crimes go unreported, our city as a whole is less safe.

To their immense credit, the LAPD hasn’t stopped people solely to ask about their immigration status since 1979. In 2014, the agency also stopped holding detainees for possible deportation by ICE.  Tuesday’s press conference was a joint appearance by Police Chief Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti where Garcetti signed a directive for the Fire Department, Airport Police and Port Police to follow the same policies as the LAPD.

Garcetti was scathing in his assessment of the Trump administration and its impact on his city:

Today, hardworking, law-abiding immigrants are fearful for their safety and anxious about being targeted and having their families torn apart, and we understand why. Under this new administration, we are all seeing policies, executive orders and rhetoric that are divisive, mean-spirited and often unconstitutional. And we see this impact all across our city. 

We’re seeing similar declines at art centers, at parks, libraries, and senior centers around the city. We’re seeing less people reporting crimes. And we believe that many local families are keeping their kids home, and are backing off of engaging with our law enforcement officials and our public safety officials because they are afraid of what they believe could happen. I want to be very clear on this, that is unacceptable in our Los Angeles.

LA Values Its Latino Population

It would be hard to find a city that was harder hit by the administration’s inhumane approach to immigration enforcement. Two-thirds of Angelenos are either immigrants or children of immigrants. That heritage clearly sets the community at odds with Donald Trump. Garcetti is clear that his loyalties and his values lie with the population he serves, not with the current occupant of the White House. The mayor said:

Immigrants make us proud, win victories, start businesses, graduate, and make our city strong.

Trump can’t see, or is unwilling to acknowledge, that immigrants are also what has made the country strong. His single-minded pursuit of the undocumented among us is not only weakening vital bonds within communities and families, but putting women at great risk of increased suffering.

Unfortunately, Trump has given ample evidence that the suffering of women is not his concern.

Feature photo, domestic violence victim, public domain image by United States Marine Corps.

 

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Deborah Montesano

Deborah Montesano is a longtime political activist and blogger. She learned to fight against impossible odds by living for years in Arizona, but recently relocated to the more progressive-friendly city of Portland, Oregon. Find her on Facebook at facebook.com/thepoliticali/ or on Twitter @thepoliticali_1.

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