When the Illinois General Assembly convenes for its fall session Tuesday, legislators should put the Voices Act atop their list and override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto.
The bill would set guidelines for cops and prosecutors to provide certification for undocumented immigrants who are victims of violent crimes and step forward to assist in investigations or prosecutions of their assailants. Certification allows immigrants to apply for a special visa from the federal government designated for victims of violent crimes, such as sexual assault and domestic violence, that allows them to legally remain in the U.S.
Several Republican legislators joined Democrats in passing this bill with good reason. It encourages victims to report crimes. And it offers clarity to law enforcement on how certification requests should be handled.
Rauner vetoed the Voices Act in August, but his rationale didn’t make sense. “That ties the hands of law enforcement,” he said at the time.
No, it doesn’t, as even a former Republican governor, Jim Edgar, agrees.
Rauner cited a predicted cost by Illinois State Police of about $425,000 for staff to process certifications, usually within three months, in his veto message. But there is a higher cost for Illinois residents when victims of violent crimes refuse to cooperate with law enforcement.
To address concerns by law enforcement, this bill includes a provision to protect law enforcement agencies from civil litigation if they make mistakes on certifications.
Congress established the victims’ visa program in 2000 to encourage undocumented immigrants to work with law enforcement. Its aim is to get violent criminals off the street, which only can happen if victims work with cops and prosecutors.
Victims can’t apply for the visa if local cops and prosecutors don’t acknowledge their cooperation in investigations or prosecutions by providing certifications. That’s where many victims run into glitches.
Too often, law enforcement agencies don’t fully understand the federal law, or they apply their own disparate rules to signing off on certification forms. Victims who do the right thing by coming forward and helping cops investigate deserve better.
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Region: Chicago,Editorial,City: Chicago,Opinion
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November 11, 2018 at 09:19AM