As President Donald Trump ramps up immigration enforcement, minorities, namely Hispanics in border states, are becoming increasingly afraid to report crimes out of fear of deportation.
“A couple of days ago there was a witness to a burglary of a motor vehicle,” Houston police officer Jason Cisneroz told NPR. “She saw the suspects run to a certain place and with items they stole from a car, but she was afraid to come to police, she was in fear they would ask for her papers.”
Collectively, Cisneroz’s message is starting to proliferate, as proof of further isolation among the nation’s undocumented population continues to mount. And the results are coming with grave consequences, police said. Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and robbery are not reporting crimes.
According to the Houston Police Department, sexual assault reporting among Hispanics has dropped by 43 percent since Trump took office. The number of robberies and aggravated assaults have dipped by 12 percent. In Los Angeles, sexual assaults have dropped by 25 percent.
And some say fear among Latino communities is anything but unfounded. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is currently aiming to expand its footprint in order to detain a growing number of federal immigration detainees. The federal government is paying jail officials at least $80 per day, per detainee, while the subject goes through the system, which sometimes includes deportation.
In Illinois, part of the McHenry County Jail, just west of Chicago, is a ICE detention center. It houses approximately 200 federal detainees per year. A similar plan was on the table in nearby Rockford, Illinois, to house as many as 128 detainees at the Winnebago County Jail. The plan was nixed when jail officials learned ICE would bring civil detainees to the facility, furthering a growing fear among Rockford’s Hispanic population.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed a bill mandating jail officials to comply with federal agents and authorizing police officers to check immigration statuses of anyone who is arrested. While it is more common for law enforcement officers in border states to check for immigration statuses, the practice is typically not mandatory. Generally, only officers authorized under Section 287 (g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act can take someone into custody solely for being undocumented.
Abbott vowed that officers will only be searching for those who’ve committed crimes and that racial profiling will be practiced in order to round up civil detainees.
In Houston, NPR reported Saturday, police officers are typically discouraged from inquiring a person’s about immigration status. Under the new law, officials say it will remain that way.
“(It not going to be like,) ‘I’m gonna go out to the Home Depot and start going after those day laborers that may be undocumented immigrants,'” Police Chief Art Acevedo said. “We’re going to make sure we provide plenty of training to those who might be inclined, to make them understand that racial profiling is not going to be tolerated.”
Women are now living with the fear of deportation if they report domestic violence https://t.co/9WXphx8wwT— Mother Jones (@MotherJones) May 27, 2017
Latinos are still afraid, however, and the problem is now a reality in 48 states. In some counties, ICE has made arrests at courthouses, which is further keeping people isolated from the rest of their cities. Drug deals, prostitution, brawls and a host of crimes are still going unreported as a result.
Some say Trump doesn’t deserve as much of the blame as he’s receiving. In a 2013 Policy Link study, 45 percent of Latinos said they were unlikely to report crimes in fear of deportation.
According to federal law, undocumented immigrants are not always taken into custody. Some are summoned to court and each has a right to defend their cases. Relief from deportation, which can take months, is often granted.
[Featured Image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]