Trump immigration database exposes crime victims’ personal info, lawyers say
Database tracking status of migrants who committed crimes also includes those who are crime victims, putting them at risk of further violence and violating laws
A new US immigration database has exposed the personal information of crime victims, putting them at risk of further violence and violating federal laws designed to conceal the identities of abuse survivors, according to a coalition of attorneys.
The online database recently unveiled as part of Donald Trumps anti-immigrant agenda and accessible to the general public includes immigrant victims who have sought federal protections as survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault, activists said.
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a new system called the Victim Information Notification Exchange (Vine) that officials claim allows victims of crimes committed by immigrants to track the status of their perpetrators. But civil rights campaigners and attorneys have discovered that the database also includes immigrants who are crime victims themselves and are supposed to be shielded from public disclosures for safety reasons.
That means immigrants who have applied for relief under the Violence Against Women Act and other similar programs have had their private information exposed because they are undocumented. Attorneys fear that the database will allow abusers and traffickers to track the locations of their victims, interfere with their cases and inflict further violence.
It has certainly put a very powerful tool in the hands of abusers, said Archi Pyati, chief of policy and programs at Tahirih Justice Center, a nonprofit that provides legal services to immigrants and refugees fleeing violence. Federal law says youre not allowed to do this.
Critics said this kind of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) searchable database broadly exposing victims is unprecedented and is the latest example of the Trump administration endangering the most vulnerable immigrants under the guise of public safety. Escalating fears of mass deportation and raids have pushed undocumented immigrants further underground, with increasing reports of immigrants refusing to report crimes, cooperate with law enforcement or speak up about worker exploitation.
The Vine database of people in DHS custody is part of Trumps efforts to crack down on immigrants, including the rollout of a new office dedicated to victims of immigration crime. Thats despite research showing that immigrants are far less likely to engage in criminal activity than people born in the US.