Monday, February 28, 2011

"Secure Communities" Threatens DV Victims with Deportation

Advocacy agencies are raising serious concerns about the Department of Homeland Security's "Secure Communities" program. Many agencies are going so far as to tell undocumented victims of domestic violence never to call the police, because they risk being deported themselves.

Designed to identify and deport dangerous, undocumented immigrants with a criminal history, Secure Communities has removed about 58,300 convicts from the United States since its pilot launch in late 2008, according to ICE.

But 28 percent of the people transferred to ICE custody under Secure Communities from October 2008 through June 2010 were non-criminals, according to ICE figures. Some of the detained people--an unknown number--are victims of domestic and sexual violence.

While federal law protects crime victims from having to reveal their immigration status, if these victims are arrested or have been arrested in the past Secure Communities now discloses that.

This can affect victims in a scenario where a police officer arrives at the home and can't communicate with the couple. Police may arrest both parties or even arrest the victim if the abuser speaks English and twists the series of events that led to the police call.

Victims are also subject to "revenge arrests," when abusers call the police and accuse them of perpetuating the violence.

"The man says, 'Look she scratched me, I didn't do anything.' So the woman gets arrested and if undocumented, she gets reported to ICE," Neugebaeur said. "How can I as a lawyer say now in good conscience, free and clear, 'Don't worry about anything, call the police,' because if you call the police, you can be reported to immigration services."
Several Georgia counties are already enrolled in the program, including all 5 in metro Atlanta, and the entire state will be enrolled by the end of 2012. We hate to have to say so, but if you are undocumented or are counseling a someone impacted by domestic violence who is undocumented, consider the risk of deportation before you reach out to the police. If you choose not to call 911, please get to a safe place and then contact your local domestic violence safehouse. In Atlanta: (404) 688-9436. In Georgia: (800) 33-HAVEN. Elsewhere: (800) 799-SAFE.

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