Women Are Dropping Domestic Violence Claims in Fear of Deportation

It is no exaggeration to say that our new president directed a lot of his campaign’s focus, as well as his first two months in the White House, to the deportation of undocumented immigrants in the United States. With the promise of building a wall between us and Mexico and two executive ordered travel bans, Trump’s presidency has resulted in intense targeting of immigrants, documented or not.

Recently, NPR reported that domestic violence victims have been refusing to appear in court for fear of being identified by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. This is not a new occurrence, as fear of deportation has discouraged immigrants from asking for help from the police, fire department, or other federal forces whose purpose is to protect people in emergency or dangerous situations.

So far, four women in Denver City, Colorado have dropped or have not pursued cases with domestic violence claims because they are afraid there will be further consequences for them. Their fear is not unwarranted. A video released last month, taken in Denver’s main courthouse, “shows ICE officers waiting to make an arrest” and “criminal defense and immigration attorney Whitney Leeds asking questions of men who tell her they’re there to make an arrest.” Just this month, Leeds stated that although ICE made arrests at courthouses during the Obama administration, she feels that this new presidency will make for “more arrests and more fear.”

The domestic violence claims being dropped have been described as “physical and violent assault” by Denver City District Attorney Kristin Bronson. Because ICE’s presence at the courthouse has deterred the victims from being willing to move forward, the DA has been unable to prosecute their abusers. Bronson says she has repeatedly asked ICE officers to focus their attention elsewhere.

As Americans, we have to think about how immigrant-targeted legislation and policing intersects with other issues like domestic violence. If domestic violence survivors cannot seek protection because ICE officers might arrest them for immigration violations, that is not justice. Immigrant rights are women’s rights.

Written by Ella Wiley ’18, WGRC student worker