Some considerations when working with immigrant victims:
- Immigrants often have very specific fears of government and law enforcement officials. They fear being reported to immigration authorities, or being blamed for the criminal activity they are victims of. If possible, offer assurances that your top priority is assisting the immigrant – not reporting him or her to federal authorities.
- This fear extends to when immigrants have witnessed crimes as well as when they are the victims themselves.
- Immigrants often do not make distinctions between different types of government agencies or law enforcement agencies. It is not uncommon for immigrants to believe that all government agencies are linked and equally interested in reporting them to immigration authorities.
- Immigrant witnesses may be reluctant to report purveyors of immigration fraud especially if the fraudulent parties are members of their community or were referred to them by a family member or friend. Reassure them that you recognized the sensitivity of the information they are providing and, if possible, that you will protect the confidentiality of the information.
- Victims of immigration services fraud are frequently unaware that they have been defrauded.
- Be aware of language access issues. Immigrants often do not speak English so try to have immigration materials available in the appropriate languages for your community. Also be patient when communicating with someone who may not speak English very well.
- Recognize that immigrant victims may not have a lot of written evidence. Often immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, live concealed lives and purposely omit their names from documents. As a result they may not have proper identification or may conduct most of their business transactions in cash.
- Be mindful that fraudulent or ill-meaning immigrant service providers frequently try to withhold a client’s immigration file in order to impede the immigrant from seeking outside help.
- Be aware that some immigrant applications (e.g. Violence Against Women Act and asylum applications) may be subject to strict confidentiality rules and therefore, be harder to obtain from government agencies.
- Do not promise any immigration benefits in exchange for witness cooperation. Instead refer them to the New York State New Americans hotline for a free referral and to legitimate legal help (and have them sign a U visa certification if you can!).