Fewer Undocumented Immigrants Are Reporting Domestic Violence

Advocates confirm the fear of deportation in the Trump era is keeping some victims silent.

Last month, Los Angeles Police Department’s Chief Charlie Beck said reports of sexual assault and domestic violence have dropped 25 percent among the Latino population in Los Angeles. Many speculate that the reason for the plunge is a spreading fear of deportation, triggered by the Trump administration’s anti-immigration policies.

But, where does New York City stand?

The New York Police Department, when asked if something similar is happening here, couldn’t give any information on the matter, because it doesn’t break down sexual assaults by the race of the victim.

But local advocates for victims of domestic violence confirm the numbers are going down here too. While exact figures are unavailable, the group reports that it has received  about 5 percent fewer domestic violence cases during the first three months of 2017, compared to the same period of time in 2016.

“It’s like adding something else to a glass that’s already full,” said Ema Medina, program coordinator at Voces Latinas, a Queen-based non-profit that offers services for domestic violence victims and survivors in the Latino community. “These women have suffered physical, sexual, psychological and economic violence, and now there’s something else to add and that’s the insecurity related to immigration matters.”

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According to Medina, many immigrant women have also told the organization that they are also afraid to leave their homes in the current climate.

“It’s something we can observe from the calls that our clients have made. As immigrant Latina women, they fear they might be deported because of their legal situation,” said Medina in Spanish.

She also added many are even worried that the non-profit would give out their personal information to law enforcement. She stressed that it would not.

Fewer reports of domestic violence have also been noticed by some local hospitals. A spokeswoman at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst said the hospital has seen fewer domestic violence patients coming to the hospital’s emergency department since January. “Unfortunately, we have no data to explain why fewer domestic violence patients are showing up, and we don’t want to speculate,” Atiya Butler, the spokeswoman, said, adding that the hospital remains committed to providing care to all, regardless of immigration status..

Latinos might not be the only immigrant community going through this situation. Yuanfen Kristen Chi, executive director at Garden of Hope, a non-profit for Chinese residents in New York City, explained that even though they still get a similar number of cases, the group has noticed that something has changed in their community. “Many clients are reporting an increasingly depressed and anxious mood,” she concluded. Chi also reported that fewer patrons are applying for city benefits out of fear.

Hospitals are considered “sensitive locations” by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office. This means that enforcement actions at these places should generally be avoided, “and are therefore generally safe,” according to the spokeswoman for Elmhurst Hospital.

Medina, Yanfen and Butiya all urged residents not to feel afraid to go to a hospital, because they are safe places for immigrants  regardless of their immigration status. They all confirmed that hospitals do not collect any information on a patient’s immigration status and added that the hospitals won’t release any information without the patient’s consent.

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