VOICES Act and Springfield News

Wed Nov 21 2018

The Campaign for a Welcoming Illinois is on the verge of a major victory.  The campaign drafted the Voices of Immigrant Communities Empowering Survivors (VOICES) Act, which would increase protections for immigrant survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, trafficking, and other offenses. The bill passed the Illinois General Assembly with strong bipartisan support, but Governor Rauner vetoed the measure in August. When the Illinois Senate reconvened during the fall veto session, it overrode the governor’s veto by a bipartisan vote of 40-12.  VOICES now goes to the Illinois House during the final week of veto session, November 27-29.

Why is the VOICES Act necessary?

Three out of four physical assaults and  four out of five rapes never get reported to police. Immigrant survivors face compounded fear that reporting to law enforcement will lead to deportation. Under federal law, survivors who cooperate with the detection, investigation, and/or prosecution of the crime can be provided with a path toward economic stability through a U or T visa as they are attempting to gain independence from their abusers. To qualify for a T or U visa, a survivor needs a law enforcement agency to provide a certification that documents the survivor’s cooperation. Many agencies, however, refuse to issue certifications or delay their responses. ICIRR released a report that found found disparate handling of certification cases when comparing Cook County and other areas. 


 

What does the VOICES Act do?

The VOICES Act provides a standardized path to certification by providing a time frame (90 business days in most cases) for a law enforcement agency to certify that the person is a victim.

 

What happens next?

Having cleared the Senate, the bill must now receive at least 71 votes in the Illinois House for the bill to become law. The House is expected to take on the measure during the final days of veto session, November 27-29. Stay tuned for updates as they develop.

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ICIRR is dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society.
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