13 June 2011

Illegal Immigrants=Drunk Drivers? According to Fattman, Yes.

Time was when even the most open-minded of people used to say that rape victims were "asking for it" or "must have done something" to provoke the attacker.

I'm sure there are still people who still think that way.  But at least no public officials who want to get elected to, or stay in, office would say such a thing.  And they certainly wouldn't equate a rape survivor with a drunk driver.

Or would they?

Well, believe it or not, a state representative in Massachusetts--yes, Massachusetts--actually said that.  Well, he didn't say it directly.  Instead, he used some of the most tortured syntax and logic to come to that.

Steve Fattman (Does he have a brother named Jake, by any chance?)  said that  rape victims who are illegal immigrants "should be afraid to come forward."  In Massachusetts, there is a program called "Safe Communities" which requires both perpetrators and victims to be fingerprinted so that authorities can check the prints against immigration databases.  Whoever designed the program probably thought that he or she was indeed making the community safer.  However, I don't think anyone thought of this consequence:  Many immigrants are now afraid to come forward.  I'm not talking only about illegal ones, now, either:  Many come from places where, in essence, the cops and the military are one in the same and have free rein to do what they want to people.  That makes them afraid of authorities generally.

And, of course, illegal immigrants would be even more afraid to come forward. That is what Rep. Fattman wants.  "If someone is here illegally, they should be afraid to come forward because they should be afraid of getting deported."  While explaining to a reporter that he was quoted out of context, he said, "If someone got into a car accident, it's obviously a tragic event. But if they're drunk and they crash, it's a crime. If that person was drunk and survived the accident they would be afraid to come forward."  Likewise, he said illegals should be afraid to come forward.

I won't rant and rave about how that statement is offensive on so many levels. Instead, I will talk about a Barbadian student I had a few years ago. I'll call her Charlene.  One evening, she came to class wearing big sunglasses.  I think she knew that I knew why she was wearing them, and she asked to see me after class.

Even though I knew nothing about her life, I knew--even before she opened her mouth--that the black eye and other bruises were caused by her husband.  Don't ask me how--I just knew.  In fact, almost everything about her story was sadly predictable--except for one thing.  Yes, she was here illegally.  So, for that matter, was her husband.  In fact, he wanted to come here and insisted that she did.  And, in her community, everyone took his side because they are all religious conservatives who believe that a woman is supposed to be subservient to a man.  They also believe, after the Apostle Paul, that women are essentially a necessary evil for marriage and making children.  According to what Charlene told me, even the women in her family and community believe this way. 

Of course, I talked to her about leaving him.  There were churches, safe houses and other places where she could go, I told her.  That wouldn't help, she protested:  Her husband, as well as many other people in her community, would look for her.  One or two might even try to kill her, she said.

And, on top of that, she had to worry about Immigration and Naturalization!  That's not what a battered woman--or anyone suffering a trauma of any sort that isn't of his or her own doing--should be worrying about.  

But worry she did.  After all, in the minds of such as Rep. Fattman, she is on the same moral level as a drunk driver.  


Jeanne Genet said...

I get very nervous when I read about things like this. As an immigrant and a naturalised US citizen (naturalised through my parents when I was a minor), I should legally enjoy the same privileges that other US citizens do, but several situations have made it clear to me that I do not. And if that's the case for a *citizen* who happens not to have been born in this country, I can only imagine what it is like for non-citizen immigrants, even those who are legal. Report a crime whilst treated as a 3rd class resident? I would be surprised if 10% of the victims would be willing to come forward.

Justine Valinotti said...

Jeanne, what you say helps to explain, in part, something I noticed when I was writing for a newspaper: Crime in communities with large populations of immigrants and other "minorities" is grossly under-reported. Even the police concede that much crime in such communities is never reported, for some of the reasons you mention in your response and I mention in my post. That is particularly true for crimes like domestic violence and sexual assault, which are under-reported crimes nearly everywhere.