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When Immigrants Report Crimes

What the Alleged Rape of a Guinean Immigrant by the Head of the IMF Tells Us About Secure Communities

by TANYA GOLASH-BOZA

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has been accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid in her place of employment. In the aftermath of the alleged assault, the maid immediately notified hotel staff. By the time law enforcement agents arrived, Strauss-Kahn had left the hotel.

The maid is a 32-year old woman from Guinea who was granted asylum in the United States. It is not clear at this moment what her immigration status is. When I heard about the case, I thought to myself, "I sure hope she is legally present in the United States." I have no reason to believe that she is not legally present, but let’s imagine for a moment that she is not.

This incredibly brave woman did not run and hide after being attacked by a powerful white man. Instead, she reported the incident to the hotel staff and to law enforcement officials. Because of this, he was arrested and is currently being detained by law enforcement officials.

She may or may not know this, but women like her who have reported such incidents to the police have been detained and deported. Mar?a Bola?os called the police to report a case of domestic violence. When the police showed up at her house, they arrested her on the suspicion that she was selling phone cards. She now faces deportation.

This cooperation between criminal and immigration law enforcement is part of the Secure Communities Program. Since it began in 2008, Secure Communities has led to the deportation of 101,741 immigrants. About a quarter of those deported (26,473) had been convicted of serious crimes. More (29,296), however, had not been convicted of any crimes at all prior to being deported. Instead, they had an encounter with police officers that did not lead to any criminal conviction. This is similar to the encounter that this Guinean immigrant is having with law enforcement agents. Reporting a crime requires contacting law enforcement.

The woman who Strauss-Kahn allegedly attacked will now face public scrutiny. If her immigration status comes into question, she could face deportation.

This case is telling of what could happen when law enforcement officials cooperate with immigration agents. In the United States, cooperation between criminal and immigration law enforcement has become the norm. This does not bode well for the victims of crimes, who may face deportation if and when they report these crimes.

Tanya Golash-Boza is on the faculty at the University of Kansas. She blogs at: http://www.stopdeportationsnow.blogspot.com/