At a time when the federal government is cracking down on undocumented immigrants, those who are victims of crimes may not come forward for fear of deportation.
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas hopes to help change that — she wants to make it illegal for suspects to use someone’s immigration status as a threat.
New York State Penal Law Section 215.15 makes it a class E felony to intimidate a victim or witness to a crime in the third degree. Intimidation tactics include instilling fear of violence or intentionally damaging the property of a person to dissuade them from speaking to a court, grand jury, prosecutor, police officer or peace officer.
Simotas wants to add an amendment that would punish those who report the immigration status of a victim or someone who is seeking protective order in family court as an intimidation tactic.
“The president’s recent executive orders and Homeland Security directives have caused so much fear and confusion, that the Federal government has handed abusers and other criminals a weapon to harass, intimidate and silence fearful victims,” Simotas said. “If predatory criminals can turn in their victims to immigration authorities, our communities become less safe because undocumented victims and witnesses will simply not report crimes.”
In El Paso, Texas, a woman who had just received protective order at El Paso County Courthouse after alleging that she was the victim of domestic violence, was arrested by ICE agents. The victim’s attorney said she thinks her abuser tipped the agents off to the victim’s immigration status while he was in jail.
Simotas told the Daily News that she has not found a co-sponsor for the bill and it might be difficult to get it passed with the Republican-controlled senate.
“Those brave enough to report abuse must not be silenced by the threat of deportation,” she added.