Westchester Activists Urge DA to Create Special Unit to Serve Immigrant Community

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 28, 2017

Contact: John Garcia, Director of Communications, 212-739-7513, 917-673-9095 or jgarcia@latinojustice.org

LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Hudson Valley Community Coalition and the Westpac Foundation have sent a letter to Westchester District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino urging him to create an Office of Immigrant Affairs to better serve Latina/o/x’s and other immigrant residents in the lower Hudson Valley.

The letter details how immigrants have been increasingly targeted in hate crimes and bias incidents more frequently since the November presidential election. An office of Immigrant Affairs would provide services to individuals who are victims of immigration fraud, hate crimes and robberies. The unit would help to instill trust between law enforcement and the community.

Many district attorneys in New York City as well as in Nassau and Orange County have already created similar units in recent years to better serve immigrant communities in their jurisdictions.

“The example set by other District Attorney offices demonstrates that Latino residents must be able to trust local law enforcement to maintain public safety,” said Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “We strongly urge District Attorney Scarpino to move forward on his campaign promises to diversify the Westchester DA's office, and urge him to follow his fellow District Attorneys by implementing an Immigrant Affairs Unit to ensure all Westchester residents are equally protected under the law. After last Fall’s election, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a Fraud Alert on the increasing reports of immigration services scams. More recently, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services issued a consumer warning that immigrants have been contacted by individuals identifying themselves as agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who were demanding money payments to resolve their immigration cases."

"WESPAC, a 43 year old Westchester-based community institution, strongly supports the creation of an Immigrant Affairs Unit in Westchester County,” said Nada Khader, Executive Director. “We urge our county law enforcement authorities to send a strong message that predatory attacks, whether financial or physical, on vulnerable immigrant communities will not be tolerated. The creation of an Immigrant Affairs Unit is an important part of the process of making Westchester County a safe place for all of our residents."

The creation of an Immigrant Affairs Unit by the District Attorney’s Office would serve the immigrant community of Westchester in two ways:

First, the unit would be uniquely positioned to prosecute crimes, financial and violent, that specifically target immigrant communities. Given the current hostile anti-immigrant climate, immigrant victims and witnesses would be more inclined to come forward to report crimes and co-operate with any local investigation by a specially trained prosecutorial unit that is cognizant of the diversity of Westchester. Such a Unit can also serve as a law enforcement liaison with the broader immigrant community and ensure cooperation and trust with local prosecutors.

Second, the unit would serve as a resource for the office as a whole. Navigating the complexities of the intersection of criminal and immigration law is often difficult, even for experienced prosecutors. An internal Unit with an expertise in immigration law and interacting with immigrant victims, witnesses and defendants can provide better legal guidance on how local prosecutions may affect a non-citizen’s immigration status.

You can read the letter here.

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