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Women Aren’t Reporting Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Out of Fear of Deportation

President Donald Trump has wasted no time following through on his campaign promises to tighten immigration and border security. But hiring thousands of additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials and calling for a widespread crackdown on all undocumented immigrants—regardless of their criminal status—is having devastating consequences: Immigrant women are choosing not to prosecute violent crimes committed against them out of fear of deportation.

In Colorado, four women have dropped pending domestic abuse charges out of fear that the proceedings could result in the arrest by ICE officials, Denver City Attorney Kristin Bronson told NPR. The women, who Bronson says were victims of violent physical attacks, have declined to pursue their cases following the president’s executive order on immigration—signed in late January—and the release of a video taken in February depicting ICE officers stationed at the Denver courthouse waiting to make arrests. The women were afraid they’d be detained at the courthouse and ultimately be removed from the country.

As Bronson notes, this crackdown on immigration means that the perpetrators of these crimes—and others like them—will not be brought to justice for their actions—and leave them free to prey on more people.

“Without victims willing to testify we’ve had to dismiss those charges and the violent offenders have seen no consequences for their violent acts,” she told NPR.

Bronson has asked ICE officers not to make arrests at courthouses and to instead work with the local jail to arrest violent criminals. Whitney Leeds, a Denver-based criminal defense and immigration attorney, told Oregon Public Broadcasting that ICE agents did make arrests outside of courthouses during the Obama administration, but she anticipates more arrests—and a greater amount of anxiety among immigrant communities—because of the current president’s stance on immigration.

A spokesperson for ICE told NPR that courthouse arrests usually come after officers have “exhausted other options,” adding, “In such instances where deportation officers seek to conduct an arrest at a courthouse, every effort is made to take the person into custody in a secure area, out of public view; but this is not always possible.”

Beyond these recent instances of women dropping domestic violence charges, other reports indicate that an increasing number of undocumented immigrants are choosing not to report crimes at all out of fear of being deported. On Tuesday, Charlie Beck, the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, said that reports of sexual assault within LA’s Latino community are down 25 percent in comparison to this time in 2016. Reports of domestic violence are down 10 percent.

Beck, along with LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, attributed the decline to Trump’s immigration policy and widespread fear that reporting crimes could lead to deportation. This has only been exacerbated by the increasing number of ICE raids and reports of ICE officers identifying themselves as the police to gain the trust of undocumented women and men.

“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,” Mayor Garcetti said on Tuesday. “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.”

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