“Undocumented immigrants and even lawful immigrants are afraid to report crime,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo. “They’re seeing the headlines from across the country, where immigration agents are showing up at courthouses, trying to deport people.”
Though Houston’s immigrant population is one of the nation’s fastest-growing, the city last year had a 16 percent drop in domestic violence reports from Hispanics, a decline police blame on a tough new immigration enforcement law in Texas and the increasingly hostile political climate surrounding illegal immigration, reports the New York Times. Houston police recorded 6,273 domestic violence reports from Hispanics in 2016, compared to 7,460 the previous year. Police in several cities with large Hispanic populations, including Los Angeles, Denver and San Diego, also reported a decline in reports of domestic violence and sexual assault in Hispanic communities. In Houston, Latino domestic violence reports dropped even as the city’s Hispanic community, now 44 percent of the population, grew significantly. “Undocumented immigrants and even lawful immigrants are afraid to report crime,” said Police Chief Art Acevedo. “They’re seeing the headlines from across the country, where immigration agents are showing up at courthouses, trying to deport people.”
One case drew national headlines in February 2017, when an undocumented transgender woman from Mexico went to El Paso County, Tx., court to file a protective order against her ex-boyfriend. She was detained by federal agents. In Houston, women’s activists, domestic violence shelter workers and immigrants shared stories of women who had become more fearful than ever of any contact with the authorities because of deportation threats. Across the U.S., authorities have documented declines in crime reporting by immigrants. Many of the steepest drops began in 2017, when President Trump ordered federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement to step up its targeting of those in the U.S. illegally. The American Civil Liberties Union in May issued a national survey of police officers, victims’ advocates and prosecutors showing that undocumented immigrants are more reluctant to call the police, press criminal charges and testify against assailants.