Stories of immigrants being arrested at airports, courthouses and schools has L.A.'s sizable community of south-of-the-border expats on edge. They're so on edge, in fact, that the city of Los Angeles has called on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to stop identifying themselves as police so that folks here illegally aren't afraid to call cops to report crimes.
Bamby Salcedo, CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition, says some immigrants are taking community safety into their own hands: "People are scared to come forward and report things," she says. "Particularly in the Latina community, there are people who are very tight in specific neighborhoods, where people try to protect one another."
Earlier this week, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck reported crime statistics that show a nearly 10 percent decline in spousal-abuse reports and a 25 percent drop in rape reports among Latinos compared with the same time last year.
"While there is no direct evidence that the decline is related to concerns within the Hispanic community regarding immigration, the department believes deportation fears may be preventing Hispanic members of the community from reporting when they are victimized," according to an LAPD statement.
The figures also include a 25 percent decline in spousal abuse reports by people of Korean descent and a 100 percent drop in rape reports among people of Filipino descent. Here it should be noted that, according to the Pew Research Center, "Asia has replaced Latin America (including Mexico) as the biggest source of new immigrants to the U.S."
Salcedo says that, until Donald Trump is no longer president, undocumented immigrants will need constant assurance from local police that they won't be turned over to ICE after reporting a crime. "They need to let people know that police are not going to work with immigration authorities," she says. "Our organization, we do support our community members in working with them if they've been victims. We'll accompany them to police stations."
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Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), says the ICE crackdowns are a threat to the safety of the immigrant community.
“It is a tragedy when a victim of a crime who happens to be an undocumented immigrant must also suffer the horror of having to remain silent because of the fear of deportation," she said via email. "The wide net ICE has cast on immigrant families is a serious affront to public safety everywhere."