AUSTIN - A big concern of Senate Bill 4, the so-called "sanctuary cities" bill, is that it might create fear between undocumented immigrants and law enforcement.
And that fear could keep victims and witnesses of crimes from reporting it to police.
Virginia Badillo is originally from Mexico, has been living in the United States for 12 years, runs her own cleaning business and is undocumented.
She said her community feels attacked after the passage of SB4 into law.
“Not having documents for them is a risk of deportation,” said Badillo in translation from her native Spanish. “And a risk to separate their family.”
She said the law hinders communication between law enforcement and her immigrant community.
“What liberty does someone feel – who is a victim of abuse -- to call police to tell them, 'Someone is being aggressive towards me, I'm suffering, I'm a victim of a crime,'" Badillo said.
SAFE, the organization here in Austin that serves sexual assault and domestic violence victims, reports a decrease of those willing to report sexual assaults to law enforcement.
On average, SAFE provides 60 exams a month. In Feb 2016, there were 3 non-reports. In Feb. 2017, 8 non-reports.
Fifty-seven percent of their clients are Hispanic. SAFE said it does not ask for documentation status when someone contacts them.
"If everyone is concerned about safety, then this (SB4) puts an additional wall or barrier to safety,” said SAFE CEO Kelly White. “It's not just domestic violence. It's also - we're seeing it with sexual assault … What it says is that it's open season on undocumented immigrants."
In regards to SB4 being signed into law, the Austin Police Department's Interim Chief Brian Manley released a statement saying in part, "Legal advisers are reviewing the approved language of SB 4. We will have a better understanding of the impact to our operations and any necessary changes to policy or procedure once this review has been completed ... With the passage of this law, we want our minority community to maintain their trust in us, if you see or are a victim of a criminal act we want you to call us and report it."
Undocumented immigrants such as Badillo said they urge their friends and community members to not be afraid.
"Participate, become part of an organization, become part of the fight,” she said. “The fear isn't going to bring us to anything. It's not going to take us to any success. Hiding isn't going to make anyone listen to us."
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