The Justice Department says that U.S. government’s efforts to fight human trafficking are stronger than ever, but people working with victims say President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric is posing a problem, McClatchy Newspapers reports. “We used to tell immigrant communities that if you’re a victim of a crime, you should not fear coming forward. We can no longer say that,” said Jean Bruggeman of Freedom Network USA, an alliance of 32 organizations that work to prevent trafficking. Eighty-two percent of respondents in a survey sent out by advocacy organizations said they had clients who worried about contacting the police or going to court against their abusers. Sixty-two percent said immigration-related anxiety expressed by survivors had increased under Trump.
“Survivors are concerned that they will be detained if they make a police report or call 911,” one survey respondent wrote. “A 16-year-old survivor attempted suicide because she was concerned that her offender would report her and her family to [Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” Trump’s words and actions, including his campaign-trail reference to Mexican “rapists,” his administration’s travel ban and his comment about people from “shithole countries” have filled many noncitizens with dread, and they’re more reluctant to report any sort of crime to the authorities. “Before Trump, if a migrant was caught for speeding they might just get a ticket, now they’re calling in ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement),” said Denise Brennan of Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of International Migration. “That’s been carefully noted in these communities, and victims of exploitation are not going to go to those same law enforcement officers for help.”