“ICE continues to focus its enforcement efforts and limited resources on threats to national security, border security, and public safety. ICE carries out its duty to enforce the laws of the United States in accordance with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) national security and public safety mission. Any civil immigration enforcement actions by ICE conducted outside of these priorities must be approved by the Field Office Director.”
This statement comes from Alethea Smock, Public Affairs Officer and Acting Regional Director for the Mid-West U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Ms. Smock was generous with her time in explaining that all victims should feel safe to come forward, whether documented or not. Homeland Security has processes and resources in place, instead, to assist victims.
While ICE as an agency cannot make any statement that it won’t deport underage sexual assault victims of Tay Anderson, “ICE continues to focus its enforcement efforts and limited resources on threats to national security, border security, and public safety.” As explained by Smock, ICE targets violent criminals and gangs that are in the country illegally, those who pose major threats to the country, not potential child victims.
While the Department of Homeland Security provides specific protection for undocumented victims of crime, underage children in vulnerable positions remain both scared and mistrusting about the process of reporting certain crimes as an immigrant. Victims of sexual assault and rape are eligible to file I-918, Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status. The status provides temporary immigration benefits for crime victims and their families. It’s also illegal for ICE to detain or deport crime victims who come forward.
Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security’s Victim’s Assistance Program aims to provide a wide range of assistance for vulnerable crime victims.
A recent survey found that 78% of victims of sexual assault and domestic violence wouldn’t report crimes to police because they fear their immigration status being questioned. That survey polled adults; the victims in question here are children…children whose alleged abuser is in a position of authority over them.
ICE does not want to take these alleged victims or their families.
If none of this means anything, legally or symbolically, to any victims reached here, know this: the entire world is watching. While survivors may have felt failed by the system, it cannot and will not fail this time. Victims who were not heard or seen before now may rest assured that we hear you. We see you. They see you in Australia, in New York City. When you’re ready, the millions of people listening right now via the hundreds of media and social media channels available will not let harm come to you from any direction.