Monday, May 15, 2017

License to Abuse, Extort and Steal

My April 17 blog – Extortion in the Name of Donald Trump  began an examination of how unscrupulous landlords are using Trump’s clampdown on undocumented residents to jack-up rents, ignore leases, cancel plans to fix apartments in obvious code-violating disrepair, under threat of turning them in to ICE (U.S. Customs and Immigrations Enforcement) agents. The Justice Department – interestingly not living up to its name – has approved of ICE agents patrolling the hallways of “sanctuary cities’” courthouses, trolling for illegals… even after California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye’s March letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly: “Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws.” 
California, a self-declared sanctuary state, is feeling the brunt of any angry Trumpists hell-bent on bringing that blue state to heel. Witnesses are not showing up to trials. Litigants are defaulting or withdraw complaints. And people, who are either undocumented themselves or who may have undocumented relatives, are letting some pretty serious criminals get away, sometimes literally with murder, under a fear that folks filing criminal complaints (or their families) may well find themselves facing deportation orders.
So today, I’d like to look at one particularly ugly side of those enforcement policies: domestic violence. “Cristina’s husband had hit and threatened her repeatedly for years, she said, but it wasn’t until last year that she began to fear for the safety of her young children, too. Reluctantly, she reported him and filed a police report.
“Cristina, an immigrant from Mexico who arrived in the United States as a teenager in the 1980s, began to apply for a special visa for victims of abuse that would set her on a path to citizenship and her own freedom. Then last month, she told her lawyer that she no longer wanted to apply. She was too fearful, she said, not of her husband, but of the government… ‘I am scared they will find me,’ Cristina, who lives in a suburb of Los Angeles, said in an interview, asking that her last name not be used.
“Domestic violence has always been a notoriously difficult crime to prosecute. It often takes victims years to seek help, and they frequently have to be persuaded to testify against their assailants. And for many undocumented victims, taking that step has become exceedingly difficult because of fears that the government will detain and deport them if they press charges, according to law enforcement officials, lawyers and advocates from across the country.” New York Times, April 30th.
We know that there isn’t any explanation for the decline of domestic violence filings in states with larger populations of undocumented residents… other than a fear of deportation by accessing any aspect of local government. “Since the presidential election, there has been a sharp downturn in reports of sexual assault and domestic violence among Latinos throughout the country, and many experts attribute the decline to fears of deportation. Law enforcement officials in several large cities, including Los Angeles, Houston and Denver, say the most dangerous fallout of changes in policy and of harsh statements on immigration is that fewer immigrants are willing to go to the police.
“The number of Latinos reporting rapes in Houston has fallen by more than 40 percent this year from the same period last year, Art Acevedo, chief of the Houston Police Department, said this month. The drop, he added, ‘looks like the beginnings of people not reporting crime.’
“In Los Angeles this year, reports of domestic violence among Latinos have dropped by 10 percent and reports of sexual assault by 25 percent from a year ago, declines that Charlie Beck, the chief of the Police Department, said were likely due to fear of the federal government. Dozens of service providers and lawyers interviewed said immigrant women were deciding not to report abuse or press charges.
“[But even red states have felt this anomaly against justice.] The fear among immigrants was exacerbated by a case in El Paso [Texas], where Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested a woman in February moments after she received a protective order against the man she said had abused her. The United States Commission on Civil Rights, a bipartisan independent agency, urged federal officials this past week to reconsider their courthouse arrest tactics. The agency said the Texas case and other courthouse arrests were having a chilling effect on immigrants throughout the country.” NY Times.
Trump supporters love these stories; they want to clear the country of undocumented aliens under their passionate belief in various “criminal and job-stealing” myths (“alternative facts”) – notwithstanding lower crime rates among immigrants than the general population and the fact that most of the jobs Hispanics economic refugees take have no takers from U.S.-born workers. So many cannot foresee how expensive food or construction costs can get. The problem is that these policies are not in our collective best interests. And instead of reducing crime, these efforts are creating just the opposite effect.
The willingness of the Trump administration to look the other way when the victims of crime are undocumented residents is a huge change from past practices of any prior American presidency. “Under the Obama administration, victims of crime were not considered a priority for deportation, and many local law enforcement agencies went out of their way to make inroads with immigrants…
“[But Donald Trump changed all that.] Worries over deportation will only increase the feelings of fear and isolation for victims of sexual assault or domestic violence, said Wanda Lucibello, a former prosecutor in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office…
“‘When you’re talking about immigrant communities, you’re talking about perceptions and whether those perceptions are accurate or not,’ Ms. Lucibello said. ‘If the perception is that there is a greater risk if you go to the police, you are going to be less likely to do so, and you are more likely to stay in an abusive relationship until you need to seek treatment at a hospital.”
“She added: ‘It’s really the opposite of what anyone should want. All of this strengthens the abusive partner.’” NY Times. Is this the country you believe in, that you are proud of?
I’m Peter Dekom, and I keep seeing the Statue of Liberty in tears.

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