Immigration Enforcement, Police Trust and Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a serious under-reported crime in the United States. Undocumented women are particularly prone to this type of violence given their low socio-economic status and frequent dependence on their partners’ income. While immigrant survivors still qualify for protections under the 1994 Violence against Women Act (VAWA), intensified enforcement has exacerbated their reluctance to seek assistance for fear of deportation. Recently, localities across the country have limited the scope of cooperation between law enforcement and Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) with the intent of increasing community trust and cooperation with the police. We use data on VAWA self-petitions, along with information on immigration enforcement and the limited cooperation of law enforcement departments with ICE, to identify the impact of both types of policies on the share of VAWA-self petitions between 2000 and 2016. We find that a one standard deviation increase in immigration enforcement lowers the share of VAWA self-petitions by approximately 10 percent, whereas a one standard deviation increase in the adoption of practices limiting the cooperation of law enforcement personnel with ICE raises the share of VAWA self-petitions by 2 percent. Learning about these impacts is crucial at a time of growing police mistrust by minorities and heightened immigrant vulnerability to crime given migrants’ reluctance to contact law enforcement in the midst of intensified enforcement.