Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo has joined a growing chorus of voices warning that the Trump administration’s harsh immigration tactics are silencing victims of rape and other violent crimes.
On Wednesday, Acevedo announced that the city’s police department has found that the number of Latinx reporting rape decreased by nearly 43% from January to March this year, compared to the same three months last year, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Other violent crimes saw a 13% decrease during the same period.
At a news conference discussing the findings, Acevedo said, “When you see this type of data, and what looks like the beginnings of people not reporting crime, we should all be concerned. A person that rapes or violently attacks or robs an undocumented immigrant is somebody that is going to harm a natural born citizen or lawful resident,” the newspaper noted.
Meanwhile, the same internal police study found increases of more than 8% of non-Latinx victims reporting rape, and nearly 12% reporting other violent crimes.
Houston joins several other cities that have recently warned of similar trends. As Fusion’s Anne Branigin points out, reports by Latinx victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in Los Angeles have dropped by 25% and 10%, respectively. That prompted LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck to highlight a “strong correlation” between less crime reporting and fear of becoming a target by immigration authorities.
Fusion’s Katie McDonough reported similar patterns in cities from Texas to Colorado to New York.
These tactics are common enough in abusive mixed-status relationships that domestic violence organizations have made checklists that all read the same. Materials from Futures Without Violence and Casa de Esperanza both warn of abusers ‘threatening deportation or withdrawal of petitions for legal status.’ They might destroy legal documents or different forms of identification to keep victims fearful and isolated. To be undocumented in the United States is to in some ways be in a constant state of precarity, and abusers know and exploit this.
In Houston, Acevedo urged federal officials to take a step back and figure a better way to operate that doesn’t cause terror in communities across the country and further harm victims of crime.
Agencies should function “in a manner that does not have a chilling effect on victims of violent crimes coming forward regardless of their immigration status,” he said, according to the Chronicle.