The statement from the attorney of Safe Horizons, the largest assistance agency for victims of domestic violence in New York City, was shocking.
According to an interview she granted with Women’s Enews, the attorney confessed that she nor her colleagues advise their undocumented clients to call the police anymore after they get beat up.
Why? Because of a program that the Obama administration and the Department of Homeland Security call “Secure Communities.”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t make the lives of undocumented victims of domestic violence secure.
Secure Communities is a federal program rolling out nationwide to get local police to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrest the “dangerous criminals” among the undocumented population — or so that was the pitch.
Nobody wants murderers, rapists, pimps, drug cartel members, etc. free to prey on both citizens and undocumented residents. In fact, there’s unanimous agreement that if Secure Communities was enforcing what they initially proposed, there would be no problem.
The problem is the program is not being used as it was intended. It’s not just going after dangerous undocumented criminals; it’s targeting the defenseless undocumented worker, and in this case, victims of domestic violence.
An analysis of the Secure Communities program reveals a level of deceit by federal authorities regarding the program:
Officials with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deliberately misled the public and local law enforcement agencies about the immigration-enforcement program Secure Communities.
Internal e-mails obtained by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network show how ICE spokespersons rehearsed phrases that would frame Secure Communities as targeting the most violent illegal immigrants, even as evidence mounted that the majority of those deported through Secure Communities were arrested for a non-violent crime or detained despite having no criminal record.
Also, when Secure Communities launched a couple of years ago, it was touted as something that local law enforcement had an option to join and could opt-out if they saw it was damaging community relations.
After starting the program, some law agencies saw it wasn’t working for them. Other law enforcement groups didn’t even want to go there knowing it could damage the relationships they had built with their immigrant communities.
Yet when law agencies strove to exercise either right — to opt-out or not join — they were told they had no choice. They had to stay in the program and they had to join, eventually.
What that has meant is that now when officers arrive on a scene where they see a Latino or a Latina, there is an assumption of illegality and people are asked to prove they are citizens.
It seems to not matter if the woman has a black eye, bloody nose and split lip because instead of receiving medical attention and emotional counseling for the violence she may have just suffered, she is now instead hauled off to a cell to await deportation.
The trauma the woman endured is only compounded with being separated from her family, her children and her home while her attacker remains free, if he’s in the country legally.
Because of this disregard for the welfare of these women, and blatant dismissal of the law that protects undocumented victims of domestic violence, women will now risk death at the fists of their attackers rather than trying to call for help.
A review and reform of Secure Communities needs to take place before authorizing any further implementation. If the Obama administration proceeds with granting their agents the authority to disregard the welfare of undocumented domestic violence victims and continues to target low-level or undocumented immigrants with no criminal records, it is violating a basic trust the Latino community has with Democrats — and one of the main reasons why Latinos helped Obama get into office.