OPINION: The Right to Report Crime Fearlessly

By Jocelyn Varela-Martinez, Contributor

Anna* is a college student who attends church regularly and goes out with friends on weekends. Anna is your typical American girl – but she was sexually abused as a child. After this horrific trauma, she cried to her mother about the horrific moment when her life changed forever. Afraid, both mother and daughter decided that it was best to remain silent in fear of being deported if police were involved. This crime occurred years before the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act, and therefore the risk of deportation was high. Anna is an American in all aspects except for the right to seek justice without fear.

DACA was implemented in 2012 by the Obama administration and the United States Citizenship and Immigration services. This policy allowed for those who had come to the United States before their 16th birthday to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be able to go to school and work legally.

In Sept. 2017, the Trump Administration ended DACA.

Anna is a 1.5 generation American — her family is from Argentina and she was born there. Out of her control, she was brought to the United States to be raised here. She had no choice but to follow her parents. At the time she came to this country, she had the ability to come with a temporary visa, but that program was eliminated and her family chose to overstay their visa. This factor would make her a nonimmigrant visa overstay.

Fear of deportation is what silenced her many years ago. Anna was afraid that in pursuit of justice there would be repercussions. She remained silent. DACA is the reason she has proceeded in life and in college and is hopeful of one day obtaining a degree in law. The American Immigration Council has stated: “While DACA does not offer a pathway to legalization, it has helped over half a million eligible young adults move into mainstream life, thereby improving their social and economic well-being.” Due to having legal status in the U.S. with DACA, Anna feels more protected and secure in reporting any illegal activities.

DACA helps the younger generation have the willingness to report crimes, because now their status will not be in question.

ThinkProgress reported on a 2013 study that consisted of more than 2,000 Latinos. In this survey, it was found that more than four in ten Latinos are less likely to report crimes and 45 percent are less likely to volunteer information about crimes. This same survey showed that 70 percent of non-immigrant Latina women would not file a police report in fear that the police will try to review their immigration status.

It is understandable why others might think demolishing DACA is best, due to believing that these individuals are taking away jobs from other Americans. Anna is a perfect example of those DACA members who are just students looking for an opportunity. She is one of many, but many in one. Her voice alone is just as strong.

There have been protests and public speakers discussing concerns about repealing DACA and how many people would be affected. Removing DACA could cost more than $460.3 billion over the next decade in GDP losses, according to the Washington Center for American Progress. Not only does this affect DACA members, but also everyone else, families and future generations.

There are countless non-immigrant individuals who are victims of crimes that go unreported. This includes our youth that are looking for a better future. Is it fair to deprive them of such an opportunity and extinguish the right for justice because of a crime that was not their fault? For many, justice is never sought or obtained.

As a society, we should look out for one another and for our youth as they live on our legacy. To let Anna’s story be in vain and thrown away and be forever forgotten would be tragic. She is no longer a victim and her past does not define her. She is DACA, and she is a patriot to the United States of America. Together, we are America.

*Name has been changed for anonymity

Photo Courtesy of Mason Creative Services