ILNews

Disconnect between immigrants and the law leads to confusion

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

After chatting with a colleague, Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Fogle decided something needed to be done about the relationship between immigrants and law enforcement.

“There is a great deal of confusion on both sides as to what your rights are, what you can do,” Fogle said.

Fogle and Maria Wildridge, Latino services director for the prosecutor’s office, identified a need for law enforcement and people involved in immigration issues to discuss how to bridge the gap.
 

fogle-andy-mug.jpg Fogle

“Maria and I decided we needed to reach out to the groups and organizations that are working with this population,” Fogle said.

Plans are in development for a one-day seminar in July that will bring together law enforcement, pro bono, and immigrant advocacy representatives in an effort to make sure everyone understands all viewpoints regarding immigrants and their interaction with the legal system.

New laws, new discussions
A new law passed in the Indiana Legislature this spring has resulted in much debate about who is responsible for enforcing its many provisions and how that will be done.

Christie Popp, directing attorney for the Indiana Legal Services Immigrants’ and Language Rights Center in Bloomington, said the new law, Senate Enrolled Act 590, worries many immigrants.

“Even before this legislation was passed, I was getting so many calls from my clients. There was so much concern and misinformation about what was in this law,” she said.

Popp and others say that they know many immigrants are fearful of police. Undocumented immigrants especially worry that interaction with the police – even as a victim or witness – could result in deportation. Indiana’s new law attempts to address that concern, stating that when reporting a crime immigrants do not need to provide proof of their status to police. This subtle revision to the Indiana Code may make immigrants more inclined to come forward when they are witnesses to or victims of violent crime. But no one seems to be able to say specifically how that information will be disseminated to the people who need to know it.

Kerry Hyatt Blomquist, legal director for the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said that getting victims of domestic violence to testify against their accusers can be difficult, especially if victims worry about being deported.

“I can say, ‘Hey your immigration status is not going to be important at this protective hearing,’ but I’ve got to get to them first,” Blomquist said.

Fogle also noted that domestic violence cases involving immigrant victims can be difficult to prosecute.

“You have people arrested on domestic violence, and the victims are afraid to talk to us, they’re afraid they’re going to get deported,” he said. Without cooperation from the victim, the prosecutor’s office may lose a case, which Fogle said is a concern secondary to protecting the victim.

The seeds of distrust
The Pew Hispanic Center reports that of the approximately 322,000 people in Indiana in 2008 who called themselves Hispanic, about 78 percent listed Mexico as their country of origin.

In its 2010 report, “Barriers to justice for immigrants: Distrust of police, language barriers,” Human Rights Watch stated that Mexican laws regarding domestic violence against girls and women are, at best, inadequate. Victims who do report abuse, the report says, often find police treat them with apathy, suspicion, or disrespect. And some abusers may be penalized only after they’ve repeatedly attacked their victims.

So even in the United States, victims may be unsure what to expect from police.

Melissa Arvin, supervising attorney for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Domestic Violence Division, said she thinks that the Hispanic population may also be leery of police based on misconceptions that arise from local interactions. For example, she said that if an immigrant has a negative experience within the court system or with police, word of that experience may spread through the community and contribute to the distrust of police.

A questionable resource
One resource currently available to undocumented victims of certain crimes is the Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status – commonly referred to as the U Visa. The U Visa protects undocumented immigrants from deportation, to encourage their cooperation in prosecuting their attackers. The petition must be certified by a local agency before being submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office.

“The vast majority of calls we get are immigration cases, and a significant number are people seeking relief because they are victims of violence,” Popp said. “The vast majority of people who seek U Visas are victims of domestic violence, usually perpetrated by a husband or a boyfriend.”

Popp said that generally, she has been successful in getting U Visas certified for those who need them. But she said that in one northern Indiana county, officials refused to certify her client’s U Visa application, even though the client was a rape victim who testified in court, and the offender was prosecuted for the crime.

Agencies eligible to certify U Visa applications include police departments, prosecutor’s offices, the Department of Labor, and others. But agencies are not required by law to sign the I-918 certification form. Furthermore, agencies and attorneys may not agree on the interpretation of the form’s language.

Marco Moreno, an attorney with Indianapolis law firm Lewis & Kappes who specializes in immigration matters, recently attempted to get a U Visa for a man who had been stabbed in the back. Moreno said that he appealed to two attorneys in Indianapolis’ Office of Corporation Counsel, but that his client was denied the U Visa twice on the grounds he would not meet the requirements for being “helpful,” as outlined on the certification form.

Moreno provided Indiana Lawyer with copies of the letters from the city attorneys, which stated that the victim’s testimony was neither credible nor reliable, and therefore, the victim could not be considered “helpful” in solving the crime.

In his appeal of that determination, Moreno wrote a letter specifying, “At all times, Mr. Cortez was cooperative with police and the investigator, going to meetings with authorities, photo line-ups, speaking over the phone with investigators, and providing as much information as possible.” Moreno said his client was able to provide a description of his assailant’s skin and clothing color after being stabbed in the back several times. “This information was provided to the best of his knowledge and recollection while in a position of imminent death,” Moreno wrote.

Moreno said he was unsure what he could now do to help his client. The case was closed, with no arrests made.

“Even though this U Visa is available, in my opinion, it is not being utilized as it is intended to be,” Moreno said.

Arvin, who oversees U Visa applications for her division, said she will not certify a U Visa if there has been no criminal case.

“I don’t feel like I should be signing off if there’s not been some sort of prosecution,” she said. “I’m not saying they’re not cooperative with somebody else,” she added, noting that a victim could also ask the local police to sign the form.

“I wait until the cases are over – I won’t sign off on anything that’s pending,” she added.

Fogle said U Visas are just one of many topics that he hopes will be on the agenda for the seminar he and others are planning.

“Our position from the prosecutor’s office is that we understand this population,” he said, of the growing number of immigrants and refugees. “Our focus is criminal justice and protection of the public, and that very much means protection of victims and witnesses.”•

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

ADVERTISEMENT