Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. announced the creation of the Office of Immigrant Affairs (OIA), which will be dedicated to assist various immigrant communities navigate the criminal justice system.
“Too often, members of the immigrant community are victims of crimes of economic exploitation or crimes of violence. With the creation of the Office of Immigrant Affairs, there will be one point of contact within the District Attorney’s Office where immigrants will be able to receive help” said D.A. Scarpino. As of the 2010 census, the Hispanic population in Westchester County was close to 22 percent. As such, the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office handles many cases involving this community.
Victimized immigrants may report any type of crime, including violent crimes, human trafficking, domestic violence and fraud. The emphasis will be on making the process easier for immigrants to come forward to be a witness to a crime and not fear that they will be deported. “This office will provide better coordination of these prosecutions and provide greater outreach to the immigrant community” said Scarpino.
The Westchester County District Attorney’s Office has joined the New York State District Attorneys League of Immigrant Affairs (DALIA), an organization committed to protecting all the residents of their respective counties, when they become victims of crimes. As a member of DALIA, we join with the District Attorneys of New York County, Queens, Kings, Nassau, Orange and the Bronx. Regardless of status, OIA will assist members of the immigrant community who have fallen victim of crimes to obtain justice within our legal system:
- The OIA will ensure that complaints received through the hotline or website, are directed to the appropriate bureau within our office.
- As part of this initiative, we will be undertaking outreach and education efforts, and working with advocates to spread the word about the new OIA.
- In addition to examining crimes targeting the immigrant community, the OIA will serve as a liaison to foster cooperation—we want victims and witnesses to work with us to investigate and prosecute cases.
- OIA will assist members of Westchester’s immigrant communities navigate and access the criminal justice system. Immigrants are often exploited for their vulnerability and are often unfamiliar with their rights.
Common schemes targeting immigrant residents:
- “Notarios”, or others that represent themselves as attorneys who can provide legal advice or promise to process immigration paperwork
- Individuals pretending to be ICE agents that promise special treatment or demand payments in order to avoid deportation
- Persons or business that promise to provide employment or work visas that they cannot provide
- False investment opportunities
- Sale of fake government documents, such as social security cards and passports
- Businesses that hire immigrants to work on construction projects but fail to pay wages
In creating the Office of Immigrant Affairs, District Attorney Scarpino also announced that Lila E. Kirton, Deputy Bureau Chief of the Office’s Bureau of Strategic Planning and Community Outreach will serve as its inaugural director. In addition to being the daughter of immigrants, Lila brings many years of prosecutorial experience having served as an Assistant District Attorney in Queens as well as having worked in the office of the New York State Attorney General. She will build upon the extensive program of public education and outreach efforts already undertaken by the Bureau and serve as a liaison to immigrant communities in Westchester, to make them aware of how to access the criminal justice system if they are victimized and to assist with questions or concerns, and coordinate with the appropriate bureaus and divisions within the Westchester County District Attorney’s office.
Anyone who believes that he or she may have been the victim of a crime is encouraged to call the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office of Immigrant Affairs hotline at (914) 995-1616.
The Immigrant Affairs Unit was expressly created to serve members of all immigrant communities, regardless of immigration status.