Domestic violence hotline sees sharp rise in calls from immigrants ‒ study

Domestic violence hotline sees sharp rise in calls from immigrants ‒ study
The most popular domestic violence hotline in the US has reported a 30 percent increase from 2015 in calls from undocumented immigrants. Their data shows that the growing fear of deportation began during the 2016 presidential election.

A recent report from the National Domestic Violence Hotline states that it responded to 7,053 phone calls, texts and online contacts in 2016 that involve immigration-related concerns, up 30 percent from 2015, the Associated Press reported on Monday. 

Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the hotline, said the spike in calls from undocumented immigrants happened just after President Donald Trump became the Republican nominee for president and the party began calling for tougher enforcement of immigration laws.

Ray-Jones told the Associated Press that many victims had been threatened by their abusers, who have used immigration status as leverage to control their victim’s behavior. Many of the women who call say they have been threatened by their abusers and if they ever tried calling the police, the abuser would contact US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to deport them.

We're not in a place where we can say, 'Oh, don't worry. That's not going to happen,'" Ray-Jones said.

Kim Gandy, president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence said the victims are afraid that deportation would cause them to be separated from their children.

It’s about the worst threat you can make to someone,” Gandy told AP.

The data from the Hotline mirrors recent data from police departments, which have seen a dramatic reduction in the number of domestic abuse reports from undocumented immigrants since Trump became president.

In March, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck held a press conference, where he said that there has been a 10 percent decline in reports of spousal abuse and a 25 percent decline of reported rapes among Latino residents, compared to the previous year since Trump became president.

Beck said the fear of deportation creates a rift between the community and law enforcement, whereby undocumented immigrants are reluctant to engage with police, even if they were to witness a crime.

It’s no surprise that’s someone who’s being abused, but fears deportation if she calls the police, would reach out to the national hotline to try to find out if she has any other options,” Gandy said.

In February, the immigrant community was shocked when ICE agents arrested a woman in a courthouse after she obtained a protective order against the man who allegedly abused her.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly responded in a joint letter in March, explaining that it is easier for police to arrest undocumented immigrants while they are in a courthouse, since “visitors are typically screened upon entry to search for weapons and other contraband and the safety risks for arresting officers and persons being arrested are substantially decreased.

The US Commission on Civil Rights, a bipartisan independent agency, said last month that courthouse arrests had a “chilling effect” on witnesses and victims of crimes. 

David Lapan, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, told reporters last month that immigrants who are in the country illegally are not protected because they are victims or witnesses to a crime.

"Just because they're a victim in a certain case does not mean there's not something in their background that could cause them to be a removable alien," Lapan said, according to New York Daily News. "Just because they're a witness doesn't mean they might not pose a security threat for other reasons."