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State Lawmakers Consider "Voices Act" to Help Immigrant Crime Victims

Sam Dunklau
NPR Illinois 91.9 FM
State Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D, Cicero), flanked by other Illinois House lawmakers and advocates, addresses the media on May 22.

Illinois lawmakers are pushing a measure to allow immigrants who are victims of domestic or sexual abuse to more easily make their case to the police.

Immigrants might be undocumented for a variety of reasons. Some crossed the US border by choice in search of a better life, but others were brought here by force as human trafficking or sexual violence victims.

That’s who state lawmakers are trying to protect with a proposal to help them more easily pursue charges against their abusers, and let them stay in the US temporarily.

State Representative Lisa Hernandez, a Cicero Democrat, says individuals without papers avoid the police, for fear they might be deported.

“In fact, immigrant survivors are less likely to ever report their abuse," she explained. "This makes the entire community less safe.”

The measure, SB34, doesn’t change any immigration rules, but instead requires Illinois police to more quickly certify that someone is a crime victim. That gives them a special visa so they can stay as long as they cooperate with an investigation.

Supporters of the change say Illinois police departments regularly delay or deny immigrant victim claims. The measure, which has passed the State Senate and is now in the House, would require a department to respond to claims within three months. ?

Sam is a Public Affairs Reporting intern for spring 2018, working out the NPR Illinois Statehouse bureau.
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