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Immigrant crime victims get help from California governor

Immigrant crime victims get help from California governor
California Gov. Jerry Brown acted on a bill to help immigrants who are in the country illegally with visas if they are a crime victim or witness. (Nick Ut / AP)

Immigrants in the country illegally will get protection from deportation if they are victims of certain crimes and cooperate with the police under legislation signed Friday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The measure by Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) requires law enforcement officials to certify in writing that an immigrant crime victim has been helpful in an investigation of crimes including sexual assault and domestic violence. The certification are needed for an application for a "U-Visa" issued to prevent deportation of immigrant crime victim.

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"Every time a criminal goes free because the victim fears deportation and the police, we are all a little less safe," De León said in a statement. "Fear and mistrust are obstacles to the administration of justice."

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) also supported SB 674, which is in response to the refusal of some law enforcement officials to issue certifications.

Crimes covered by the new law also include murder, prostitution, perjury, blackmail, kidnapping, obstruction of justice and fraud in foreign labor contracting.

"It should not matter where you became the victim of domestic violence to qualify for a U-Visa," Atkins said. "This bill makes it clear that all entities that can certify that a victim was helpful must do so if the victim has suffered due to one of the qualifying crimes and was helpful or is expected to be helpful to the prosecution during the investigation."

The measure was supported by Angie Junck, supervising attorney for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, who said there is a lack of uniformity in how law enforcement agencies treat requests for certification.

The new law will help "eliminate discriminatory and inconsistent law enforcement policies that prevent immigrant victims of crime from receiving the federal protections they need," Junck said.

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