ANDOVER, MA — A bill to protect victims of violent crime and human trafficking from deportation was signed into law Friday, Rep. Tram Nguyen’s office said.
Nguyen filed a House version of the bill with Rep. Patricia Haddad, D-Somerset. The Senate version, filed by Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, was included in the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, which Gov. Charlie Baker signed Friday.
The bill “provides clear and consistent language for law enforcement to certify immigrant victims of domestic violence, stalking, child abuse, and sex trafficking, who have helped in the prosecution of their abusers,” according to a news release from Nguyen’s office. “With that certification, these victims can then apply for a U- or T-visa, which would allow them to testify without fear of deportation.”
Many individual agencies have processes in place for those certifications, but there is no consistent rule statewide.
“As an attorney, I worked with many survivors of domestic violence, as well as victims of crimes, including stalking and abuse,” Nugyen said in a statement. “Escaping this kind of violence is extremely difficult; it’s even more so when the victim is an immigrant reliant on their abuser for their legal status in this country.
“This is how criminals get away with keeping their victims silent and compliant: by threatening them with deportation if they speak out, or even try to protect themselves. This law will encourage victims and witnesses to report crimes and cooperate with law enforcement, who can then better investigate crimes. It will improve public safety.”
The law does not mandate that police approve applications for immigrant certification, but it requires a decision with 90 days of the application and “creates a uniform oversight process.”
“With the increase in hate and violence in recent years, this law is more timely and important than ever,” Nguyen said. “It will provide reassurance to immigrant victims who are seeking to report crimes and hold perpetrators accountable.”
Nguyen represents the 18th Essex District, which includes parts of Andover, Boxford, North Andover and Tewksbury.
Christopher Huffaker can be reached at 412-265-8353 or email@example.com.
An earlier version of this story misstated which version of the bill was signed into law. It has been corrected.
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