BARCC welcomes immigrant and refugee survivors and their families and friends.
On Tuesday, President Trump announced that his administration would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which permits young adults who entered the country illegally to attend college and obtain employment. Gina Scaramella, executive director of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, offered the following statement in response:
“Immigrant survivors that we work with at BARCC are fearful about reporting sexual assault to the police. Their rates of reporting have always been lower than those of people with citizenship. It is not unusual for perpetrators to threaten a victim who is undocumented with exposing their immigration status to keep them from reporting the assault. Many immigrant communities are also tightly connected and interdependent, which can make speaking out against a member of the group enormously risky. Sexual assault happens most frequently between people who know each other, so the barriers to reporting become extremely high for immigrant survivors.
“Even though this has always been the case, the fear for safety has been greatly heightened since January when the Trump administration began aggressively enforcing immigration law by arresting even those who have been victims of crime. In one instance, a mother was arrested by agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement at a courthouse in El Paso after receiving a protective order from the court against a man who had been abusing her. It is no wonder survivors are scared.
“Reports of sexual assault by Los Angeles’ Latino community dropped 25% in the first three months of 2017 as compared with the same period in 2016. In April, Houston’s police chief announced that reports of rape from the Latino community were down more than 40%, and attributed the drop to people being too afraid to report crime.
“Locally, more of the survivors that we work with who are immigrants are asking if it’s safe to physically go to government agencies and social service providers that we are referring them to, or even to come to BARCC’s offices. Ending DACA will make this situation much, much worse. It will impact not just the approximately 800,000 U.S. residents who have registered for the program—nearly all of whom are either employed full-time or pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees—but it will have a chilling effect on other immigrants, regardless of their legal status, and increase their reluctance to engage with government agencies. That includes reporting sexual assault.
“We are joining other leaders from the fields of tech, education, business, and health care in calling on Congress to pass legislation that will outline a path to citizenship for DACA participants. Survivors of sexual assault and their significant others have immediate and longer-term health, housing, financial, and safety needs. It is impossible to meet them if survivors cannot trust the public safety officials charged with keeping our communities safe for all.”
The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center provides free and confidential services to survivors of sexual violence regardless of sex, gender identity, race, disabilities, income, ethnicity, class, religion, sexual orientation, or immigration status.
BARCC works to provide a sanctuary for immigrant survivors of sexual violence, and we will continue to do so. Our counselors, hotline volunteers, and staff do not ask about immigration status, and our services are held to the highest standard of confidentiality. We offer free services in English, Spanish, and a wide variety of other languages upon request. Our services include counseling, legal advocacy, and assistance with immediate and longer-term health, housing, financial, and safety needs.