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WNYC Reports Fewer Undocumented Immigrant Crime Victims Stepping Forward

Photo Credit: F. Muhammad, Pixaby

by John-Mark de Palma

In a recent WNYC Public Radio report, undocumented immigrants appear unlikely to report crime victimization to authorities. Citing recent administration policy changes toward undocumented individuals and a fear of ICE arrest and deportation as the primary reasons for this shift.  For the past 20 years, the U.S. encouraged undocumented individuals who were victims of a crime, or witnesses to a crime, to step forward and assist law enforcement. In return, these individuals would be allowed to apply for a U visa. This visa is set aside for crime victims and their immediate families or for those who assist law enforcement. While this is still the case, the undocumented population is afraid to come forward.

Implications for this shift are especially noticeable in area of domestic violence, where women fear deportation if they report abusive partners. According to Terry Lawson of Bronx Legal Services, “People are regularly telling their attorneys that they’re afraid that they’re going to get arrested. They're afraid that ICE is going to be in the courthouses or around the courthouse in the Bronx and this is true in other boroughs as well."

According to the WNYC report, “data collected by the Immigrant Defense Project noted a 17-fold spike in ICE arrests inside and outside New York State courthouses. Only one was documented near a family court, but that was enough to terrify immigrants.” Advocates said this fear of the court system explains the decline.

Government officials, the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, the NYPD, and the Mayor’s Office are increasing public awareness about the U visa and T visa (human trafficking) programs through outreach programs and community affairs officers. Together they hope to ease fears and address the concerns of this community.


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