News/US: Illegal Immigrants to Tap Victim Fund?

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Subject: News/US: Illegal Immigrants to Tap Victim Fund?
From: Melanie Orhant (
Date: Mon Nov 15 1999 - 19:41:25 EST

I wonder what will happen to trafficking victims who no longer can receive
any assistance.


Illegal Immigrants to Tap Victim Fund?
By Dan Harrie
The Salt Lake Tribune, November 15, 1999

A 5-year-old state policy of refusing crime-victim's financial aid to
illegal immigrants is up for reconsideration and could be jettisoned this

The possible policy shift, which is scheduled for discussion Wednesday
during a meeting of the Crime Victim Reparations Board, is part of an
expansion of claims allowed by the agency. Minority advocates say the
proposed change is only fair.

"They are victims. They need the same treatment as anybody else," said
Leticia Medina, director of the state Office of Hispanic Affairs, on Sunday.

Medina said she is aware of several cases in which abused spouses or
children were turned away by the crime-victims agency because they did not
have documents required for legal residence in the country. "What does that
matter?" asks Medina. "We shouldn't treat anybody differently because of
their document status."

Those arguments were voiced in 1994, but did not sway the Crime Victim
Reparations Board, which voted to exclude illegal immigrants from the
program. The policy was billed as a cost-containment step.

But the financial picture has brightened for the agency, which is funded
>from surcharges on court fines for violations ranging from traffic
citations to homicides.

Belt-tightening has changed to expansion, with a healthy reserve of $10.5

Several initiatives are under way to cover people previously not eligible
for payments, said Crime Victim Reparations Director Dan Davis. The money
goes for counseling, funeral and relocation expenses, and reimbursement of
lost salary or wages.

Beginning Dec. 2, a new rule will make assistance available to so-called
"secondary victims," including family members and others traumatized by
witnessing a violent crime. That expansion alone is estimated to cost
$300,000 -- almost a 10 percent increase from the $3.6 million paid out
last year. Another expansion in the works is increasing the allowable
funeral and burial payments from $4,000 to $7,000. That change should take
effect Dec. 16.

The board also is considering loosening restrictions on fund reserves, to
allow the money to be used to provide direct or contracted victim services
beyond those now provided.

Reconsideration of the policy excluding illegal immigrants is a natural
part of the move to expand coverage, said Davis. It also is a change that
has been pushed strongly by some victim-advocacy groups and endorsed by
several agency staff members.

Davis said he supports such a shift.

"Yeah, they're in the country illegally, but they are victims," said Davis.
"There's a moral-type consideration. You cover people that are victims."

State Sen. Pete Suazo, D-Salt Lake City, said it is time the state removed
the barrier to compensation for crime victims who also happen to be
undocumented workers.

"I'm glad to hear that they're going to reconsider this," said Suazo. "The
reality is that these people are here working and contributing." Chad
Halversen, a physician who chairs the Crime Victim Reparations board,
suggested that not all lawmakers have shared Suazo's point of view.

At the time the decision was made to exclude illegal immigrants from crime
reparations, "there was a lot of controversy in the Legislature whether or
not these people should be covered," said Halversen.

The policy was instituted just days before California voters approved
Proposition 187 denying state health and education benefits to undocumented
workers there. Officials said there was no connection between the two events.

Halversen said the primary motivation for the exclusion in 1994 was
financial. "We were constrained to draw some guidelines," he said. "There
are many who look upon this as an entitlement or an insurance, which it is

But with the recent fiscal health of the fund, Halversen said it is time
for another look.

"It would be logical to cover anybody in the state, whether they're a
citizen or not, if they've been injured by crime," he said. "If legally
we're allowed to do that by our charter and legislative intent, I'm sure we
would all vote to do that."

Melanie Orhant

Stop-traffic is a facilitated, international electronic mailing list
dealing with human rights abuses associated with trafficking
in persons, with an emphasis on public health and trafficking
in persons for forced labor, including forced prostitution,
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