Immigrants account for a disturbingly high share of domestic violence deaths in Massachusetts, advocates say, raising fears that the heated immigration debate is deterring abuse victims from seeking help, the Boston Globe reports. In Framingham, Ma., last week, an undocumented immigrant whose husband had beaten her for two days called a hot line in tears, saying she was too afraid to call police. In Boston’s Chinatown, women fear becoming burdens to relatives back home if they leave their husbands. “We need to shore up services or this will continue,” said Mary Lauby of Jane Doe Inc., a statewide coalition of sexual assault and domestic violence programs. “What we are afraid of is the deeper isolation felt by immigrant victims. That is the danger point.”
Immigrants make up an estimated 14 percent of the state’s population, but accounted for 26 percent of the 180 domestic violence deaths in Massachusetts from 1997 to 2006. Nearly all of the 47 victims were women and children. Illegal immigrants are perhaps the most vulnerable, advocates say, because they fear deportation. Batterers often threaten to report their victims to immigration officials if they go to police. Some batterers who are U.S. citizens or legal residents even refuse to help their spouses apply for legal residency, holding them hostage.