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Harsh, anti-immigrant sentiment is influencing our lawmakers to create unnecessary links between law enforcement and immigration enforcement, creating significant barriers for domestic violence victims and their children. Enlace Comunitario, a domestic violence organization in Albuquerque, NM that serves immigrant families, has created a video that addresses this issue. Watch the video: http://www.enlacenm.org/brokentrust.html
Enlace's Executive Director, Claudia Medina, also wrote an editorial in the Albuquerque Journal regarding immigration legislation and other legal measures being introduced in New Mexico, and the chilling effect it can have on victims of domestic violence who are immigrants.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Opening Door To Domestic Violence
By Claudia Medina, Executive Director, Enlace Comunitario
I am writing on behalf of Enlace Comunitario, a domestic violence organization which focuses on providing services to immigrant victims and their children in central New Mexico. We are very concerned about two issues which are affecting immigrant victims of domestic violence: the proposed legislative bills to repeal or modify the current law that allows residents of New Mexico, regardless of their immigration status, to apply for a driver's license; and the Executive Order 2011-09, issued by the governor three weeks ago, which requires the State Police to inquire into the immigration status of anyone who is considered to be a "criminal suspect."
The proposals to repeal or modify our current driver's license laws would be detrimental to immigrant victims. When the law was passed in 2003, the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence and service providers supported the law because victims are more likely to report the violence when they have a positive form of identification. We can't expect that immigrant victims call the police to report the abuse or to get an order of protection if the only form of identification they have is one that clearly declares that she/he is unauthorized to be in this country or if they have no form of identification at all. In addition, law enforcement and the District Attorney's office consistently uses the MVD database to contact victims so that they can testify against the abusers.
We can already predict what impact the governor's executive order will have: We have lessons learned in Albuquerque. Last year Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry announced a new similar program which facilitates collaboration between Immigration Customs and Enforcement, our local jails and the police in Albuquerque.
Since the mayor's program was announced, Enlace has received an alarming rate of reports from our clients regarding their fear and unwillingness to call the police during or after a domestic violence incident or to serve as witnesses in court during the criminal prosecution of the perpetrator. With the issuance of this executive order, this fear will now be increased and expanded to the entire state.
This new order undermines public safety, since immigrant victims will not have the trust that effective community policing requires. Although the governor has stated that the Executive Order doesn't apply to victims or witnesses or crime, those of us who work with victims know that community policing is about the perception that a victim has of the police. This executive order and proposed changes in the driver's licenses are eroding that perception and trust.
The increase in fear that our community is experiencing as a result of the new policies has a chilling impact on law enforcement's ability to provide protection and safety of immigrant victims of domestic violence. Moreover, when immigrant victims of domestic violence do not report abuse due to fear of law enforcement, perpetrators of domestic violence are not held accountable. This leaves victims in abusive situations and children to witness the domestic violence, creating a more dangerous climate for the community at large.
We are also concerned that there are no protections to prevent a victim who gets mistakenly arrested during a domestic violence situation from being turned over to ICE, potentially leaving their children with the perpetrator. We respectfully invite the governor to meet with Enlace, other victims' advocates and with survivors so she has the opportunity to hear and address our concerns. We are optimistic that she will take us up on our offer, because domestic violence victims' lives are at stake.
As part of our goal to change attitudes towards domestic and teen-dating violence, the Promtoras and Youth Leaders have created publicity products using various media formats. Click on the links below to listen to the radio ads and watch our commercials.
The following prevention resources can be found on Enlace Comunitario's Website: http://www.enlacenm.org/preventionefforts.html