Police trust and domestic violence among immigrants: evidence from VAWA self-petitions

Esther Arenas Arroyo, Catalina Amuedo-Dorantes

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


Domestic violence is a serious under-reported crime in the United States, especially among immigrant women. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was an attempt to partially address this problem by allowing battered immigrants to petition for legal status without relying on the sponsorship of an abusive U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse. The tougher immigration policy climate may have made immigrant women more vulnerable to domestic violence, as well as more reluctant to report domestic violence to law enforcement. Sanctuary policies, which limit local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities, may counteract these effects. After exploiting the temporal and geographic variation in the adoption of interior immigration enforcement and sanctuary policies, we can successfully identify the impact of sanctuary policies, which help boost the rate of VAWA self-petitions. Additionally, we provide suggestive evidence of the channel through which this impact is likely taking place—namely through victims’ increased willingness to report cases and leave their abusers. Understanding survivors’ responses to immigration policy is crucial given growing police mistrust and immigrants’ vulnerability to crime.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Economic Geography
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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