By now most of us know about the new Arizona law that seeks to arrest undocumented persons and establish state charges for “illegal” presence in the state. This law takes Arizona down a perilous path with implications of racial profiling, lack of constitutionality, and criminal justice intimidation. One other very important ramification includes how the Latino community responds to crimes committed against individuals in their own neighborhoods.
Can a person who just witnessed a crime come forward if they believe that they or family members may be arrested for not having “papers”? This web of racist community destruction becomes even more tangled for undocumented victims of domestic violence. Chances are that victim will be deported before given an opportunity to apply for independent status and remain here legally. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides immigration relief to undocumented victims of domestic violence. For many, to return to their country of origin means more abuse because laws don’t exist to protect persons who are subjected to violence by an intimate partner. Their partner returns with them or follows them home and the abuse continues and often escalates.
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Did anyone think about the consequences for victims of crimes including domestic violence? Probably not, apparently they didn’t think or care about “unintended” consequences. Or maybe they did. Whether the intention was nefarious or not, intent is not as important as impact. The impact of this law serves to silence a community already marginalized and within that community, the further victimization of battered women who have been silenced by their batterer, sometimes by their community because they went outside of the community for help and now from the very system set up to protect them. Arizona has taken away the only thread of safety by denying victims access to VAWA relief. This law may very well short-circuit a victim’s only opportunity for a life without abuse.
How many steps backwards must we go before we move forward? Fighting to just stay in the same place is getting old. How can we move forward without slipping back. What do you think?