During the 2016 election, Donald Trump took a page out of Richard Nixon’s playbook and promised to be the “law and order” president. He particularly zeroed in on immigrants as the group that posed a major threat to safety and promised to crack down on deporting those who were undocumented. But as Cora Engelbrecht writes, those policies are actually making us less safe.
Though Houston’s immigrant population is one of the fastest-growing in the country, the city last year saw a 16 percent drop in domestic violence reports from the Hispanic community — a decline that the police blame on a tough new immigration enforcement law in Texas and the increasingly hostile political climate across the country surrounding the issue of illegal immigration…
Police departments in several cities with large Hispanic populations, including Los Angeles, Denver and San Diego, also experienced a decline in reports of domestic violence and sexual assault in their Hispanic communities. In Houston, Latino domestic violence reports went down 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 Chief Acevedo, who has spoken publicly about the need for local leaders to care for immigrants under increased pressure from state and federal authorities. “They’re seeing the headlines from across the country, where immigration agents are showing up at courthouses, trying to deport people.”
While Engelbrecht zeroes in on the crime of domestic violence, it is safe to assume that the same issue is affecting immigrants who are the victims of other crimes.
What this comes down to is a fundamental misunderstanding of how law enforcement works. Someone like Trump assumes that police simply arrest the “bad guys” (usually black and brown people) because they know in their gut that they are guilty—much as he assumed that the Central Park Five were guilty and deserving of the death penalty before they stepped foot inside a court room.
What happens in real life is that police officers are dependent on people in the community to come forward to not only report crime, but to be witnesses. For law enforcement to be effective, they need the trust and cooperation of those they are asked to protect and serve.
That bond of trust has been torn to shreds by the way ICE has been unleashed on immigrants, particularly in Hispanic communities. People, both undocumented and lawful immigrants are afraid to report crimes. That is not an unfounded fear, as we saw with the case of Wilson Rodriguez Macarreno, who had experienced a string of attempted intrusions and called 911 when he saw a stranger peering into his home.
Within minutes, police arrived at the home outside Seattle. They determined that the suspect had indeed trespassed onto Rodriguez’s property, but they had no probable cause to arrest him, they said.
Then the officers asked Rodriguez for his identification. For about 14 years, Rodriguez had been living in the country illegally. He knew he lacked legal documents, but he agreed to give his name to the authorities, assuming it was for routine reporting purposes, Cortes said.
Moments later, the officers handcuffed Rodriguez and placed him into the back of a patrol car. A search for his name in the National Criminal Information Center database indicated an outstanding warrant against Rodriguez, police said.
The warrant, which was misinterpreted by police, was administrative rather than criminal in nature. However, as of the date that article was published, Rodriguez, who is the father of three children who are U.S. Citizens, was in detention awaiting deportation to Honduras.
When immigrants stop reporting crimes and cooperating with law enforcement to bring the offenders to justice, we are all less safe. That is exactly what is happening now with the Trump administration’s attempt to “deport ’em all” when it comes to undocumented immigrants—even those who have lived here as contributing members of their communities for 14 years.