Statement on Proposals Seeking to Undermine Community Trust Policies

As the Steering Committee of the National Taskforce to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF), comprising national leadership organizations advocating on behalf of sexual and domestic violence victims and women’s rights, we represent hundreds of organizations across the country dedicated to ensuring all survivors of violence receive the protections they deserve. For this reason, we write to express our deep concerns about the potential impact that proposals that seek to undermine community trust policies will have. Proposals that weaken community trust policies will be dangerous for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and trafficking, and in particular, for immigrant victims, and communities at large.

Undermining policies that local jurisdictions have determined are constitutionally sound and appropriate for their respective communities decreases the ability of law enforcement agencies to respond to violent crimes and assist all victims of crime, U.S. Citizens and immigrants alike. As recognized in the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), law enforcement plays a critical role in our coordinated community response to domestic and sexual violence.

Perpetrators use fear of deportation as abuse. Local policies that minimize intertwining of local law enforcement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) help bring the most vulnerable victims out of the shadows by creating trust between law enforcement and the immigrant community, which in turn help protect entire communities.[1]  Abusers and traffickers use the fear of deportation of their victims as a tool to silence and trap them. Not only are the individual victims harmed, but their fear of law enforcement leads many to abstain from reporting violent perpetrators or coming forward and, as a result, dangerous criminals are not identified and go unpunished.

Community trust policies are critical tools for increasing community safety. Laws that seek to intertwine the immigration and law enforcement systems will undermine the Congressional purpose of protections enacted under VAWA and will have the chilling effect of pushing immigrant victims into the shadows and allow criminals to walk on our streets. As VAWA recognizes, immigrant victims of violent crimes often do not contact law enforcement due to fear that they will be deported. According to a study conducted by the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Latin@ Network: Casa de Esperanza, 45% of the foreign-born callers expressed fear of calling and/or seeking help from the police or courts.[2]  Furthermore, 12% of US-Born callers expressed fear of seeking help due to the current wave of anti-immigrant policies. Immigrants are already afraid of contacting the police and these policies to further intertwine immigration and law enforcement systems will only exacerbate this fear.  The result is that perpetrators will be able to continue to harm others, both immigrant and U.S. Citizen victims alike.

Recent Immigration Executive Orders are Undermining Victim Protections in our Communities Since January, victim advocates are describing the immense fear expressed by immigrant victims and their reluctance to reach out for help from police. Advocates at domestic violence programs in jurisdictions with large undocumented populations are reporting a “large drop in the number of women coming in for services,” indicating victims are not pursuing criminal charges against abusers or moving into domestic violence shelters.[3] Advocacy programs are reporting significant increases in calls from immigrant victims, many of whom are seeking information on the advisability of working with law enforcement and prosecution given their fear of deportation in light of the Executive Orders. Other advocates are reporting a drop in the number of victims seeking accompaniment to work with police and seek protection orders. Thousands of victim advocates nationwide are reporting that they are uncertain how to best advise immigrant survivors about what will happen if they call the police or go to court.

Recent reports from law enforcement officials confirm this widespread fear and uncertainty. In Los Angeles, Police Chief Charlie Beck has reported that his city is already seeing evidence of this increased fear: Reports of sexual assault have dropped by 25 percent and domestic violence by 10 percent among the Latino population since the beginning of the year.[4] In Denver, Colorado, City Attorney Kristin Bronson reported that since the issuance of the interior enforcement Executive Order, four domestic-violence victims have declined to pursue charges against their abusers out of fear of  deportation.[5] The Travis County, Texas District Attorney similarly reported that at least one domestic violence case there recently stalled because the victim declined to press charges out of fear of deportation.[6]   When victims are afraid to come forward, abusers and perpetrators will be able to continue to harm victims with impunity and our entire communities are affected.

For these reasons, we urge you to affirm the intent and spirit of VAWA by supporting strong relationships between law enforcement and immigrant communities, which is critical for public safety in general, and particularly essential for domestic and sexual violence victims. Thank you very much for your efforts to protect and support immigrant of domestic violence and sexual assault.

For more information, please contact Grace Huang, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence at, or Rosie Hidalgo, National Latin@ Network: Casa de Esperanza, at


The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence


[1] A study conducted by the University of Illinois- Chicago found that increased involvement of local police and immigration enforcement eroded trust between the police and immigrants, undocumented and documented. 45% of documented immigrants were less likely to report a crime while 70% of undocumented immigrants responded similarly.
See also,


[3] Tyler Kingkade, Trump Deportation Vow Is Scaring Domestic Abuse Victims From Coming Forward, Buzzfeed News (Mar. 16, 2017),

[4]James Queally, Latinos are reporting fewer sexual assaults amid a climate of fear in immigrant communities, LAPD says, L.A. Times (Mar. 21, 2017),    

[5] Mark Joseph Stern, Bad for Undocumented Immigrants, a Gift to Domestic Abusers, (Mar. 8, 2017),

[6] Nora Caplan-Bricker, I Wish I’d Never Called the Police, (Mar. 19, 2017),

Statement of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence in Opposition to the January 2017 Executive Immigration Actions

The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (“NTF”), comprised of national leadership organizations advocating on behalf of sexual and domestic violence victims and women’s rights, strongly opposes President Trump’s January executive orders relating to immigrants and refugees. These executive orders endanger the safety of victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking, their families, and communities at large, further isolate victims, and erect barriers to established legal protections for victims.

Limiting Refugee Admissions: Barring Refugees and Visa Holders Based on Country of
Origin or Religion Will Leave Those Fleeing Gender-Based Violence Without Protection

The executive order suspending and limiting refugee admissions blocks countless women and
children from obtaining the refuge they need to avoid and escape violence, including trafficking, rape, and other forms of gender-based violence. The order claims that one aim of barring refugees and individuals from majority-Muslim nations is to reduce violence against women. We object to this counterproductive claim, as the order actually harms those that it professes to protect. During conflict, when women and children attempt to remain in their country or settle in refugee camps, they are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault, trafficking, and unwanted pregnancies. For example, a significant percentage of Syrian refugees are women fleeing with their children due to violence perpetrated against them. It is well documented that at the hands of ISIS, women and children have suffered from widespread gender-based violence, including kidnapping, systematic rape, enslavement, trafficking, stoning, beheading, and sexual harassment and assault.

Furthermore, targeting seven designated Muslim-majority countries by denying entry for
individuals from Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Sudan not only harms those left
stranded outside the U.S., it also sends the message that victims, including U.S. citizens and their children with backgrounds from Muslim-majority countries do not merit protection from abuse. We are concerned that the executive order attempts to exclude a variety of people on the basis of their religious beliefs in order to legitimize the ban on the admission of Muslim people. We denounce any and all attempts to pit groups against each other on the basis of race, sex, religious beliefs, gender identity or sexual orientation.

Interior Enforcement: The Executive Orders Undermine Critical Tools for Community Safety
and Threaten Access to Vital Services

Punishing jurisdictions that provide “sanctuary” to immigrants is short-sighted and ineffective.
The order’s demand that local police engage in immigration enforcement activities undermines
community trust and will force vulnerable victims deeper into the shadows. Most violent and
property crimes in the U.S. are committed by native-born citizens — not immigrantsImmigrant
already fear contacting the police, and this order only exacerbates this fear. Abusers and traffickers use their victims’ fear of deportation—their own, their children’s or other family
members’—as a tool to silence and trap them. As a result, perpetrators will be able to continue to harm others, both immigrant and U.S. Citizen victims alike.

Additionally, withholding funds to sanctuary cities will cut off vital programs and services that
support the survival and health of our most vulnerable populations, U.S Citizens and immigrants alike, including: people who are homeless, people with mental illness, people living with HIV/AIDS, victims of domestic and sexual violence, and others. The order will jeopardize
victims; is not grounded in evidence; will jeopardize victims of sexual and domestic violence;
and will undermine basic services like housing, health care, education, and other critical services that support the well-being of our broader communities.

Interior Enforcement: The Order’s Enforcement Priorities Will Harm Victims of Trafficking,
Sexual Assault, and Domestic Violence

The executive order directing that fines and penalties be collected from those facilitating the
presence of those who are unlawfully present will potentially put victims at risk by discouraging humanitarian assistance to those who have been harmed. The order is so broad that providing shelter or transportation for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or trafficking may subject victim services providers to penalty. In addition, prioritizing the removal of those who have not even been convicted of a crime will jeopardize the safety of victims who have not had the opportunity for the court system to evaluate and rule on mitigating or exonerating circumstances. Immigrant victims, who are vulnerable, due to language and cultural barriers, to being arrested and prosecuted for crimes directly connected to their victimization will be prioritized for deportation before they can access services and established protections, e.g., legal protections under the Violence Against Women Act or other humanitarian immigration relief.

Interior Enforcement: Weakening Privacy Act Protections Will Endanger Victims

Victims who are seeking immigration relief to establish their independence from their
perpetrators face heightened danger from their perpetrators. The executive order directs federal agencies to exclude immigrants from the protections of the Privacy Act, which will jeopardize the confidentiality of victims of sexual and domestic violence and human trafficking and expose them to increased risk of harm from their perpetrators.

Border Security: Rescinding Parole Authority Will Harm Victims

Due to lengthy processing times for immigration protections for victims under the Violence
Against Women Act, victims and their children often face several-year long waits for
reunification. Eliminating uniform policies and procedures that allow dependents or parents to be paroled into the United States for reunification while victims’ cases are processed exacerbates trauma and exposes family members to harm abroad.

Pending Executive Actions

The NTF opposes any actions that will reduce access to protections and critical supports for
immigrants seeking safety or in the United States. Proposals rescinding Deferred Action for
Childhood Arrivals (DACA), rescinding access to employment authorization for spouses of nonimmigrant visa-holders, and limiting access to economic supports such as means-tested public benefits will increase the vulnerability of hundreds of thousands of individuals to abuse and exploitation. Abusive partners, opportunistic predators, and manipulative employers often target undocumented individuals for exploitation, as they know threats to have them deported will help keep victims silent. For those who do have legal immigration status, including those who are dependent on their spouses’ non-immigrant visas, access to economic supports is often critical to escape and recover from abuse. Increasing barriers to those economic supports, including the disqualification for employment authorization, or requiring reimbursement from abusive sponsors, will keep victims trapped without recourse.

For more information, please contact:
Grace Huang, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, at
Qudsia Raja, National Domestic Violence Hotline, or
Terri Poore, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence,