The enforcement of federal immigration laws is the duty of the United States Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Amherst Police Department does not have the authority, nor the resources, to enforce federal immigration laws. We rely on the cooperation of our community to ensure our success in preventing and solving crime. To that end, Amherst Police personnel do not make inquiries into the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses or others who request our assistance. We do not use the threat of immigration status/deportation as leverage with victims, witnesses or suspects.
As the Amherst Police Department does not have the authority to enforce federal immigration laws, persons wishing to report immigration violations can contact the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement public toll free tip hotline at 1- 866- 347- 2423.
The Amherst Police Department shall treat all persons in an equal, fair and respectful manner, regardless of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, occupation, national origin, or immigration status. This shall be the case regardless of whether the person is a crime victim, suspect, witness, or simply a person in need of police services. Skin color, language, accent, or other individual traits shall not be considered an element in building reasonable suspicion or probable cause, unless these descriptions are pertinent in developing a suspect, such as when we rely on witness or victim recollection of a suspect, and they use such descriptions of skin color, language, accent or other individual trait. Skin color, language, accent, or other individual traits will not be used as a basis for disparate treatment by individual sworn or unsworn personnel of the police department. A person’s right to file a report, participate in police-community activities, or otherwise benefit from police services shall not be contingent upon citizenship or immigration status. We value the diversity of our community, and strive to maintain partnerships and positive relationships with the community to improve the quality of life of all persons who visit or call the town of Amherst home.
Protecting Immigrant Victims with U-Visa Certification
The Amherst Police Department acknowledges that the undocumented immigrant community is frequently targeted by criminal offenders because they will not report crime, or being victimized, out of fear of deportation. We have heard from undocumented immigrants who have been victims of domestic violence and that have not called the police because of their undocumented status. We want to protect all community members, and the U-Visa program can help us do just that.
The federal government developed a program that allows for victims to feel safe when reporting a crime, which is called the U-Visa Certification program. The U-Visa program grants temporary 4 year legal status to immigrant victims. The U-Visa Certification program was introduced as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000 and its intent was to:
1. strengthen the ability of law enforcement to detect, investigate and prosecute crimes, including but not limited to domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking
2. offer protection to victims of such crimes.
The U-visa certification must affirm the immigrant victim’s past, present, or future helpfulness in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of certain qualifying criminal activity. The Chief of Police of the Amherst Police Department may, under very strict U-Visa guidelines and after consultation with the District Attorney’s Office, certify as part of a U-Visa Application an immigrant victim’s cooperation with the Amherst Police Department. Law enforcement officials who sign certifications do not confer any immigration status upon the victim, but rather enable the victim to meet 1 of the eligibility requirements in the victim’s application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Only DHS has the discretion to grant or deny U-visa status to the victim.
This project was supported by Grant No.2010-WE-AX-0028 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.