Thursday, June 20, 2024

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, seen at his 2014 reappointment, says reports of crime have dropped among Hispanics in his communities, but not crime. (Photo: Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti)

Considering the hate speech President Donald Trump has directed toward undocumented immigrants, it is ironic, if not tragic, that he has declared April 2-8 as “National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.”

“During National Crime Victims’ Week, we renew our commitment to protecting all victims of crime, vindicating their rights, alleviating their burdens and preventing future crime. We will assist our law enforcement community in bringing justice to victims and to their communities. My administration is resolved to uphold this fundamental purpose of the United States government – preserving security for all Americans,” Trump said.

His policies, including threats to immigrant sanctuary cities and an aggressive stance on deportation of undocumented immigrants, undermines that rhetoric.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has reported that he believes the substantial drop in assault reports within the local Latino community, including a 25 percent drop in sexual assault incidents compared with the same period last year, is due directly to Trump and the real fears undocumented immigrants have of being deported and ripped from their families. Even after becoming victims of crime, they stay silent to protect themselves and their families.

Crime isn’t dropping; victims are just too afraid to report it.

In addition, reports from victim rights advocates, including immigration attorneys from across the country, show that victims of domestic violence are being scared away from proceeding with cases already in the system. Plainclothes Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents are waiting outside courtrooms to arrest undocumented immigrants, regardless of why they are in court, and that includes victims of domestic violence seeking restraining orders.

The agency claims it is pursuing only undocumented immigrants who have committed violent crimes, but it is not a stretch to see the chilling effect of the practice. The practice of plainclothes ICE agents waiting outside courts occurred during the Obama administration too – but was halted sometime after 2013 due to the backlash received for exactly these reasons.

It is simply a matter of time before local undocumented immigrants begin to not report crime, if that has not begun already, despite Cambridge’s status as a sanctuary city.

The “Safe Communities Act” working its way through the Massachusetts Legislature is designed to do exactly what its name suggests: Protect everyone in the community regardless of their citizenship status, and to allow undocumented immigrants to feel safe when they report a crime – including because they witnessed a crime – or feel the need to contact authorities for any reason.

The act also specifies that police resources be used to fight crime, rather than take part in immigration enforcement including inquiries, investigations, raids, arrests or detentions that are about immigration status only. That keeps us all safer.

California is moving closer to becoming a sanctuary state too. Its senate recently passed a bill that would forbid law enforcement to use state and local resources to enforce immigration laws.

Kevin de Leon, the state’s senate president pro tempore, called the move “a rejection of president Trump’s false and cynical portrayal of undocumented residents as a lawless community.” The bill is headed to the State Assembly for consideration.

Emmanuel “Manny” Lusardi is an East Cambridge resident and the liaison for immigrant affairs to the Office of the Vice Mayor, as well as a longtime advocate for undocumented immigrants.