You’re as cold as ICE (in the key of foreigner)

The Washington Post reported today that last week a woman who is undocumented was seeking a protective order from her abusive partner and was detained by ICE officials. It is a very rare outcome for a victim seeking the court’s protection from abuse to then be subsequently detained on the grounds of being an undocumented immigrant. Unfortunately, this is another example of federal officials enacting poorly thought out and simplistic short-term “solutions” to very complicated and seemingly intractable public policy issues.

The undocumented immigrant population in the United States numbers in the millions and it is not known what consequences there will be to ever increasing mass deportations. This population is marginalized by mainstream society, yet there has also not been comprehensive immigration reform in decades. At alternate times, Republicans (ex. Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush) have advocated for compassion for the undocumented, while Democrats (ex. Bill Clinton) called for harsher treatment of the undocumented. Immigration reform is often cited as the third rail of politics so while feckless politicians have done nothing; undocumented immigrants have come and gone as a byproduct of the supply and demand for their labor. Not to mention those that were young children and brought to the United States without documentation are now in jeopardy of DACA ending.

The Trump Administration has repeatedly stated falsehoods about public policy issues that have historically been racialized discourses in American politics. For example, “crime is currently at an all time high”, “there’s not enough vetting for refugees”, and “there is a net surge of undocumented immigrants coming across our southern border”. The dog whistling politics going on by the Trump Administration is implicating people of color and non-natives as those that endanger “real Americans”. This kind of scapegoating allows politicians to shift blame from themselves, who have far more power in our society than people of color, refugees and immigrants.

According to the Pew Research Center, net migration from Mexico is below zero and the main cause for those to leave the United States is family reunification. Crime is lower than it has been in decades and is often coded as “urban”, thus further blaming minorities for social ills. Also, refugees already undergo “extreme vetting”, which seems to be more of a branding motto than a transparent and delineated national security plan.

Now all of these Trump Administration policies use blunt force and unfortunately tie back into domestic violence abuse tactics. The Trump Administration particularly likes gas lighting the public. Gas lighting is a tactic used by abusers to make their victim feel unsure about their own reality and perceptions. So an abuser may distort facts and purposefully undermine a victim’s sense of sanity. Additionally, the Trump Administration is trying to strong-arm their agenda by using power and control to try to undermine the checks and balances in our system outlined by the Constitution of the United States of America. Abusers also use power and control to manipulate their victims into staying in a dangerous and unhealthy relationship, by the use of psychological manipulation, threats and physical force.

Much like Trump may tweet something negative about an “unruly” company and the stock goes down or threaten to “take people down”, abusers of immigrant women often threaten to turn noncompliant women into immigration or end their green card sponsorship. We should not erect more structural barriers for victim’s to attain safety and feel supported.

If their continues to be a culture of silence around more dangerous crimes occurring than being undocumented then these are the initial conditions that lead to greater crimes and/or vigilantism. Also, there are millions of children that are U.S. citizens that have at least one undocumented parent. What will it mean to these kids’ futures if the breadwinner in their family is deported, their mother is deported for trying to keep her and her children safe, or their mother is murdered by her dating partner because she is too afraid to report abuse to the authorities?

In domestic violence the most dangerous time tends to be when you’re leaving, unfortunately the prospect of forcefully leaving a country trumps willingly leaving abuse.