What if you had to choose between reporting an abusive spouse, and being deported yourself?
No one should have to face this lethal choice, but as President Trump’s deportation drive pummels immigrant communities, many victims of domestic and gender-based abuse are finding themselves trapped with no good option.
Trump’s hardline executive orders—to intensify enforcement through raids, arrests and detentions while repealing Obama-administration policies that limited cooperation between federal and local enforcement agencies—are shocking in themselves. But Archi Pyati of the DC-based advocacy group Tahirih, sees systemic social costs among service providers observing the everyday ramifications for victims. Fearing detention of deportation, “women and children who are experiencing violence are afraid to come forward, they’re afraid to seek the immigration law protections to which they’re entitled.” Some victims might fear going to work, school, or even the hospital. Often advocacy organizations like domestic-violence hotlines and aid organizations are torn, wary of unnecessarily exposing clients to Homeland Security. The risks of reporting abuse might depend on the willingness of state or local police to prioritize victim protection over federal immigration enforcement. In areas hostile to immigrants, service providers might be apprehensive about even encouraging women to call 911 in emergencies.
“We want to be sure that clients are able to find safety, security, can get health services when there’s an emergency,” Pyati says, but since ICE’s crackdown has so far been inconsistently and chaotically implemented, “everybody’s rights are dependent on their jurisdiction at this moment, which creates chaos, and creates a feeling of uncertainty, unsettlement and insecurity.”
Take the case of Irvin Gonzales, a transgender abuse survivor in El Paso, Texas. She was picked up by federal agents while seeking a protective order at the local courthouse, unaware that her immigration status would trigger deportation proceedings. On her day in court as a victim, ICE arrested her as an “illegal.”