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Reports of domestic and sexual violence dropping among immigrants

Advocates for victims of domestic violence across the country report a sharp drop in the number of reports they've received from Latinos in recent months. Many attribute this to the fear among undocumented immigrants that they will be deported if they contact the police or the courts regarding a violent partner or spouse or even to report sexual assault or rape. One police chief says that he fears the trend "looks like the beginnings of people not reporting crime."

These fears aren't completely unwarranted. There have been cases of women being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers immediately after being granted a protective order.

Victims of some crimes can apply for a U visa, which allows them to stay in the country illegally if they agree to cooperate with law enforcement and prosecutors to help convict those charged with criminal activity. This visa was created in 2000 as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act passed by Congress.

Some local law enforcement officials insist that victims of domestic violence and other crimes don't have to worry about their immigration status if they report them. The United States Commission on Civil Rights has urged officials with the federal agencies not to detain people who go to court to seek protection from abusers. However, the fear of deportation is still there among many immigrants.

One law enforcement officer acknowledges that "the reality is that they do not trust the police." One former prosecutor says that it's all a matter of perception, "whether those perceptions are accurate or not."

It's essential for victims of domestic violence to take steps to seek protection from their abusers. Experienced Massachusetts attorneys can help provide guidance and protection when they go to authorities.

Source: New York Times, "Too Scared to Report Sexual Abuse. The Fear: Deportation," Jennifer Medina, April 30, 2017

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