When newly-elected President Donald Trump threatened crackdowns and mass deportations, supporters suggested that the new actions would be limited to those with criminal records. In a report this morning in the Washington Post, that appears not to be the case.
The Post finds that immigration arrests soared by 32.6 percent in the first weeks of the new administration “with newly empowered federal agents intensifying their pursuit of not just undocumented immigrants with criminal records, but also thousands of illegal immigrants who have been otherwise law-abiding.”
The number of arrests from January through mid-March were up from 16,000 last year at this time to 21,362.
The Post reports, “Arrests of immigrants with no criminal records more than doubled to 5,441, the clearest sign yet that President Trump has ditched his predecessor’s protective stance toward most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.”
The big concern now is that many undocumented immigrants, and even lawful immigrants, are reluctant to come forward to authorities to report crime.
The Post reports, “Advocates for immigrants say the unbridled enforcement has led to a sharp drop in reports from Latinos of sexual assaults and other crimes in Houston and Los Angeles, and terrified immigrant communities across the United States. A prosecutor said the presence of immigration agents in state and local courthouses, which advocates say has increased under the Trump administration, makes it harder to prosecute crime.”
“My sense is that ICE is emboldened in a way that I have never seen,” Dan Satterberg, the top prosecutor in Washington state’s King County, which includes Seattle, said Thursday. “The federal government, in really just a couple of months, has undone decades of work that we have done to build this trust.”
This report follows the passage of SB 54 written by President Pro Tem of the California State Senate, Kevin de León.
Last week, he stated, “Our communities will become more – not less – dangerous if local police are enlisted to enforce immigration laws.
“Trust will be lost. Crimes will go unreported for fear of deportation. Criminals will remain free to victimize others,” the Senate leader said.
“When cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “Failure to deport aliens who are convicted of criminal offenses puts whole communities at risk, especially immigrant communities in the very sanctuary jurisdictions that seek to protect the perpetrators.”
But the biggest threat to rising crimes might be the reluctance of otherwise law abiding immigrants to come forward and report crimes.
Last month a report came out that crime was on the rise, but arrests in California were way down. One of the causes of that might be the reluctance of the Latino population to report crimes against them.
The LAPD reports that the number of rapes and spousal abuse cases in the Latino population has dropped this year by larger numbers than in other racial groups.
Police Chief Charlie Beck told reporters that he believes members of the Latino community are fearful of coming forward to report a crime, worried that they could face deportation.
“While there is no direct evidence that the decline is related to concerns within the Hispanic community regarding immigration, the Department believes deportation fears may be preventing Hispanic members of the community from reporting when they are victimized,” the LAPD said in a written statement.
“Chief Beck wants to reiterate the importance of reporting crime to the LAPD and assure the community the focus of our investigations is to create a safer community for everyone.”
One outlet reported, “The number of rapes reported by Hispanic victims in January and February dropped by 25 percent compared to the same period last year, according to LAPD statistics. At the same time, the black population saw a 2 percent increase and the white population saw an 8.8 percent decline.”
“Imagine, a young woman, imagine your daughter, your sister, your mother … not reporting a sexual assault, because they are afraid that their family will be torn apart,” Chief Beck said.
It is not just in LA. The same problem is occurring in Houston.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said last week that his department had found rape reports by Latinos were down by 42.8 percent from last year, according to the Houston Chronicle, while violent crime reports as a whole were down by 13 percent.
“When you see this type of data, and what looks like the beginnings of people not reporting crime, we should all be concerned,” Chief Acevedo said during a press conference. “A person that rapes or violently attacks or robs an undocumented immigrant is somebody that is going to harm a natural born citizen or lawful resident.”
Barbara Hines, a law professor at the University of Texas, warned that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) arresting victims of domestic violence would have consequences.
“This is going to make immigrant women fearful of going to the authorities, and it will result in more domestic violence because women will be too afraid to seek protection,” she said.
—David M. Greenwald reporting