When Elena attempted to break up with her abusive boyfriend, he beat her horribly, saying he would leave her with scars by which to remember him. Although badly injured, she did not contact the police to report the domestic violence. Nor did she seek medical care for her open wounds or the ringing in her ear. She had heard news of President Trump’s expanded immigration enforcement policies and stories of immigration agents arresting domestic violence and human trafficking victims inside courthouses. She had also learned that her state, California, requires medical professionals to report domestic violence and sexual assault to the police, and she feared deportation more than she desired medical care.
Elena’s case is hardly unusual. In the domestic violence clinic I direct at UC Irvine Law, I’ve witnessed how mandatory reporting laws, which were meant to increase documentation of domestic violence injuries and hold abusers accountable, have had the unintended consequence of discouraging immigrants here illegally from seeking treatment. States can and should repeal these laws as they apply to domestic violence; they simply do more harm than good.
Immigrant women and girls are highly vulnerable to abuse and are statistically twice as likely as non-immigrant females to experience domestic violence. Many of my clients’ U.S. citizen spouses refuse to sponsor them for citizenship, instead threatening deportation if the victimized individual calls the police. Rampant sexual abuse and trafficking also occur, with citizen spouses telling non-citizens that it is an immigrant’s duty to sexually submit. Unsurprisingly, abuse often causes…
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