Fear has been a feature, not a bug, of Donald Trump’s mass deportation policy. A new report yesterday already confirmed that despite his claim that his unshackled deportation force is targeting only “bad hombres” for arrest, undocumented immigrants with no criminal record have been swept up. Now Think Progress’s Esther Lee reports that “social service providers and law enforcement officials are seeing a startling trend: immigrants who are entitled to services to keep them safe and protected are no longer seeking out these programs because they’re too afraid”:
Eligible families for safety net programs have been pulling out of initiatives out of fear of deportation, as the Atlantic recently reported. At one Los Angeles, California-based health care center, a provider told the publication that the center had experienced a 20 percent drop in food stamp enrollments, a 54 percent drop in Medicaid enrollments, and a 82 percent drop in a health program that helps indigent adults. The publication also reported that a New Jersey-area FoodBank saw parents pull out of SNAP and WIC, programs meant to help children and infants.
“I strongly worry that this is going to start increasing food insecurity,” Carlos Rodriguez, the executive director of the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, told the Atlantic. “If this starts happening at any kind of scale, we can’t close the gap in terms of the meals that this will remove from families.”
Among the frightening trends noted by Lee is a drop in reported domestic violence and rape, not because it’s happening less often, but because victims are afraid they’ll be arrested by local law enforcement due to their immigration status.
“After a woman in El Paso, Texas, was detained by ICE agents immediately after filing a restraining order against her allegedly abusive partner, domestic violence victim advocates have been concerned that other immigrants will be too scared to come forward to seek help”:
During a press conference in early April, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo announced a 42.8 percent drop in the number of Latinos reporting rape to his department compared to the same period last year.
“When you see this type of data, and what looks like the beginnings of people not reporting crime, we should all be concerned,” Acevedo said at a news conference, as reported by the Houston Chronicle. “A person that rapes or violently attacks or robs an undocumented immigrant is somebody that is going to harm a natural born citizen or lawful resident.”
In March, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Berk said that his department experienced a 25 percent drop in reports of sexual assault among the Latino population, with reports of domestic violence falling 10 percent.
Those statistics follow reports of crime victims who have withdrawn requests to seek restraining orders against alleged abusers out of fear that they could be arrested by ICE agents at the courthouse.
"We are not ICE agents and we are not interested in being ICE agents,” Acevedo said during the press conference. Local law enforcement officers know that pro-immigrant “sanctuary city” policies actually make communities safer and their jobs easier, despite the fearmongering from Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions. But when “a routine trip to drop off your kids at school could get you pulled over as your kid films your arrest from the backseat,” some are preferring to stay in hiding than to risk their families get torn apart.