A coalition of over 100 groups and entities have reported a surge in the number of abusers who are weaponizing deportation threats and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency against their victims. According to Immigrant Defense Project’s ICE Out of Courts Coalition, “reports of alleged abusers threatening to call ICE to stop their victims from seeking help has skyrocketed by 78.6 percent since early 2017.”
The Trump administration’s mass deportation policies have become a safe haven for abusers. The president is one, for starters, and fears around his policies have led to devastating consequences for the vulnerable. “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.”
But it’s not just that abusers are evading justice, it’s that abusers are actively using the administration’s anti-immigrant agenda to their advantage. One advocate said that “[s]everal clients mentioned their abusers were directly using the news to instill fear in clients.” Another “client mentioned her abuser screamed at her during a violent incident ‘If Trump is president then I can do whatever I want.’”
IDP notes that ICE arrests inside courthouses have worsened conditions. "Surveys of legal services professionals conducted over the past two years provide quantitative data on the decreased willingness of survivors to communicate with law enforcement due to ICE in the courts.” One client, according to Her Justice, had filed for a special visa given to victims of crime but then withdrew that application “because she was afraid of ICE enforcement in the courts.”
There could be some change here though, following the New York State Office of Court Administration ruling that ICE agents will be blocked from making arrests inside the state’s courthouses unless they have a judicial warrant. This has been thanks to the work of advocates like the Immigrant Defense Project. More states need to follow this lead, but as the report indicates, so much damage has already been done.
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