Officials with Arizona police departments and sheriff’s offices claim that victims and witnesses to crimes will not be asked about their immigration status and should not fear coming forward even now that the state’s harsh immigration law has taken effect. But Martha Angel Castillo, a volunteer with the Tucson May Day Coalition, said she knows several women who fear being separated from their children if they report abuse. And Castillo explained that happened in the case of Maria Calderon, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, in 2011:
Calderon was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in June 2011 after she asked the Tucson police for help because her husband was beating her again.
“Her husband, a U.S. citizen, immediately told the officers that she was undocumented. They asked Maria Estela to come outside and they contacted ICE, (whose agents) arrived in less than 10 minutes to detain her,” Castillo said.
Since then, Calderon has been in a detention center for undocumented immigrants in Arizona and is fighting to stop her deportation and request a U visa, created for crime victims.
Now that the controversial “show me your papers” provision of Arizona’s SB 1070 has gone into effect — requiring officers to question the immigration status of individuals they stop who are suspected to be in the country illegally — undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic violence could be most affected out of fear that they could be deported if they go to the police.
When police were investigating abuse at a Los Angeles high school, the sheriff’s department had a difficult time getting some parents to come forward because they were afraid of deportation. Some came forward to apply for U-visas, but that does not alleviate all fears. The Violence Against Women Act would expand the number of visas available to domestic violence victims, but Republicans have blocked the measure. And in an attempt to compound the issue, GOP Rep. Lamar Smith (TX) proposed a bill last year to forcibly deport undocumented immigrants who are domestic abuse victims, removing immigration authorities’ power to protect the immigrants who most need their help when they come forward.