WESLACO, RGV – At a Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council meeting last week, San Benito Mayor Celeste Sanchez asked one of the council of government’s key staff members if he had heard of undocumented immigrants not reporting crimes.
The reason they would not report crimes is because they fear they or their family members could be deported under President Trump’s new DHS guidelines for deportation.
Sanchez’s question was directed at Manuel Cruz, director of homeland security for LRGVDC. Cruz’s office collates crime statistics and sends them to Washington, D.C.
In response to Sanchez’s question, Cruz said yes, he fully expects less crimes to be reported by the Valley’s large immigrant community.
“It can happen, especially here in the Valley, where many are immigrants, and they have a fear of being deported,” Cruz told the Rio Grande Guardian. “I do believe there would be a fear of calling in and reporting a crime to officers, especially because you have multiple agencies reporting, including Border Patrol.”
Interviewed later, Weslaco Mayor David Suarez and Mercedes Mayor Henry Hinojosa said they agreed with Cruz’s prediction – that less crimes will be reported.
“For what has been going on with President Trump, people are afraid (so) they will turn their back on crime for fear of not being picked up by the Border Patrol,” Hinojosa said.
He explained that many individuals have been living in the U.S. without papers for decades, so being uprooted and splitting up their family, “that’s not paranoia, it’s reality.”
Suarez added that even though it sounds like Trump and police departments are trying to prevent crime and protect the U.S. citizens, he thinks it will create more victims.
“I think we are going to victimize some of these individuals who are not going to report crime incidents, because they’re afraid of being deported,” Suarez said.
On the other hand, both mayors explained that will less crime reported, this region will be receiving less money from grants and loans.
“In reality, crime statistics will be higher because incident won’t be reported,” Hinojosa said. “What’s not in writing, it didn’t happen.”
Hinojosa was referring to the “Governor’s Justice Funding”, which Cruz oversees in the LRGVDC’s region, which comprises Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy counties.
To access those grants, the local police departments need to send to the State Government its Uniform Crime Report which tells whether there’s an increase in crime compared to the past year’s.
“We just receive the information, we don’t collect it, and we just make sure we have it, because that’s a requirement they have to meet to be able to request grants,” Cruz added.
Suarez also said that people are afraid of getting a ticket or reporting a theft, which at the end will bring the numbers of violence up.
“The community needs to trust their police department because the police department is not being paid to enforce Border Patrol laws, they won’t ask if you are a U.S. citizen or not,” Suarez explained. “Their job is to protect the citizens, legals and illegals.”
Both Hinojosa and Suarez explained they are keeping a constant communication with their police department and the idea is to compare notes and the information coming in from the Sheriff’s Department, the federal offices, Border Patrol, and ICE.
Mayors Sanchez, Hinojosa and Suarez are on the LRGVDC’s board of directors.
Editor’s Note: Reporter Melva Lavín-Castillo contributed to this story from Laredo, Texas. TV news anchor Ron Whitlock, of Ron Whitlock Reports, contributed to this story from Weslaco, Texas.