Unequal Protection: Disparate Treatment of Immigrant Victims in Cook, the Collar Counties, and Beyond - 2017 Update

October 17, 2017

Unequal Protection: Disparate Treatment of Immigrant Victims in Cook, the Collar Counties, and Beyond - 2017 Update

Read the full report here.

Based on the findings of this report, ICIRR and its partners in the Campaign For A Welcoming Illinois have begun advocating for SB 32, the VOICES Act. Read the fact sheet for the VOICES Act here.

REPORT EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000, the U visa was created to aid law enforcement agencies in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting certain criminal activities. The U visa sought to address the under-reporting of crimes among undocumented immigrant victims by protecting undocumented immigrant victims of those crimes. To be eligible to apply for a U visa, victims must submit USCIS Form I-918B, a form completed and signed by local, state, or federal law enforcement officials to attest to the victim’s participation in the detection, investigation, and/or prosecution of the crime. The current federal statutory scheme gives law enforcement agencies discretion in how and when to certify USCIS Form I-918B.

However, a 2014 report from DePaul University College of Law Asylum & Immigration Law Clinic outlined a lack of uniformity in law enforcement U visa certification policies depending on the jurisdiction of the crime. These disparities undermine the purpose of the federal U visa scheme and inhibit victims’ ability to attain justice.

Following the initial report from DePaul and other expressed community concerns, groups successfully advocated for the TRUST Act. In its final form, the TRUST Act focused on limiting law enforcement cooperation with immigration enforcement by preventing law enforcement from detaining individuals based solely on an immigration detainer or administrative warrant not supported by a judicial warrant. A provision setting state standards for law enforcement agencies regarding U visa certification requests was removed from the final bill.

This report is meant to describe changes and continuities in U visa certification policies and practices in Illinois since the initial 2014 DePaul report was published. This updated report finds:

  • positive and negative changes among police departments and state’s attorneys’ offices since the publication of the initial report,
  • lack of oversight of U visa certification continues to lead to limited record keeping and limited accountability,
  • lack of documented policy of U visa certification continues to lead to changes in practice without cause or notice and undermines victim reliance on law enforcement agencies,
  • lack of directives around U visa certification continues to lead to state and local practices that conflict with the federal U visa statute, and
  • lack of uniformity in policy and practice of U visa certification continues to undermine trust in law enforcement and threatens public safety.

To address the disparities described above, this report makes the following recommendations to bring Illinois certification policies and practices in line with the intent of the federal U visa scheme:

  • creation and implementation of state and local law enforcement training sessions with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and community-based organizations,
  • creation of statewide model of U visa certification policy and practice, and
  • enactment of state legislation moving toward uniform certification policy and practice.

The findings and recommendations in this report are intended to highlight disparities in how undocumented victims of crime are treated by jurisdiction. These recommendations seek to increase community trust in law enforcement and ensure Illinois U visa certification policies and practices comport with the federal statutory scheme.

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