“I don’t know who to believe or what is safe to do to protect myself,” said Yanet, who stepped forward to file a sexual abuse case years ago but is having second thoughts about continuing to pursue it. Photo Credit: Megan Miller for The New York Times

USA: Too Scared to Report Sexual Abuse. The Fear: Deportation

Article in The New York Times
4 May, 2017

“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…

“We’ve always told our clients that even if you are undocumented, you don’t need to worry about it — the officers are going to protect you,” said Kate Marr, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Orange County, Calif. The level of fear now, however, is unlike anything Ms. Marr has seen in her nearly two decades of work with domestic violence survivors, she said.

“Everything we’ve ever told our clients is out the window,” she said. “It’s so demoralizing and so frightening to imagine what happens if it continues.”

At the risk of repeating myself, this is exactly why we need firewalls between immigration enforcement and public services, including the local police, which needs to “serve and protect” everyone without interference from immigration enforcement considerations. Otherwise, migrants will not report abuse and perpetrators will benefit from practical immunity. One needs to empower migrants to fight for their rights, not push them further underground where they can suffer more human rights violations.

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