Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Immigrant Victims Crime Equity Act Heads to Governor Brown

Earlier this month, the California State Assembly unanimously passed the Immigrant Victims of Crime Equity Act, formally known as SB 674, 66 votes to 0.

The proposed law provides increased protection to victims of crime who are undocumented immigrants and who may fear contacting the authorities will only bring unwanted attention from law enforcement.

The bill requires state and local law enforcement agencies to provide the necessary certifications to an undocumented immigrant who is applying for a U-Visa, otherwise known as a Victim of Criminal Activity visa.

This effort to streamline an otherwise complex immigration process and application is designed to encourage and help undocumented immigrants who are the victims of certain rimes to come forward and cooperate with law enforcement for the investigation and prosecution.

The overall incentive is to generally increase public safety. Senate President Pro Tem, Kevin de Leon, is reported to have said “[e]very time a criminal goes free because the victim fears deportation and the police, we are all a little less safe…Fear and mistrust are obstacles to the administration of justice.”

SB 674 specifically provides that law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, judges, child protective services, various state agencies, and any other investigative or criminal detective services qualify as “certifying entity,” which are authorized to provide undocumented immigrants with the certification for the U-Visa application.

The bill also lists, but is not limited to, 28 particular “qualifying crimes” that allow the victims to apply for the certification.

At this time, the bill awaits approval or veto from Governor Jerry Brown.

Katie Walsh is an attorney who focuses her practice on Victims' Rights and Juvenile Law in Orange County, California.

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