The DSK Effect: Immigrant Victims Fear Reporting Crimes

This week, sexual assault chargesagainst former IMF chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, were dropped due to concernsabout the credibility of his accuser, Nafissatou Diallo.The inconsistency of Diallo’s narrative, as well as lies contained in herasylum application, led the prosecution to conclude that its case was injeopardy. Due to the attack on her credibility, the truth regarding whathappened in that Manhattan hotel room will never be known. What does this meanfor other immigrants who fall victim to crime in the US?

Immigrant victims of crime often fearthat reporting incidents to the police may draw attention to their immigrationstatus. Fearing deportation, many victims remain silent instead ofcollaborating with law enforcement officials to prosecute criminals. Thefederal government attempted to address this problem by introducing the U-visaprogram as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of2000. Under the program, victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, humantrafficking, and other crimes are able to come forward and cooperate with lawenforcement without fear of deportation. However, many immigrants are not awareof the U-visa and law enforcement officials are not well trained in the use of itas a crime-fighting tool. Therefore, the efficacy of the program isquestionable: although 10,000 U-visas are available per year, less than 8,000were granted in 2010.

On Monday, the Obama Administration announced a policywhich will suspend deportation proceedings against illegal immigrants who poseno threat to national security or public safety – including individuals who havereported a crime. In June, the Morton Memowas issued and states that ICE will not initiate removal proceedings against anindividual known to be the victim or witness to a crime. Both of thesedevelopments are positive steps toward the protection of immigrant crimevictims; however, the effects remain to be seen. 

Crime affects entire communities,not just individuals. Criminal offenders tend to be recidivists – repeatingtheir crimes until they are caught and convicted. If immigrant victims areunwilling to report crimes for fear of deportation, we will all feel theimpact. Until immigrants feel safe and empowered to work with police toidentify and prosecute criminals, the safety of all Americans will be at risk.

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