Until last June, immigrant victims of rape, torture, domestic violence and other crimes who had been notified they could stay in the United States legally were able to use federal notice of that status to obtain a Florida’s driver’s license. Not anymore, says the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. To combat fraud, the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles says, it has started asking for reports that detail the crimes committed against them. That alarms immigrants’ advocates, who say the policy hinders immigrant women from helping law enforcement prosecute criminals.
“The biggest concern is that these individuals are in a very vulnerable position, because of their immigration status,” said Walter Laramie, a former federal immigration supervisor and expert on immigrant crime victims. “In many cases, these individuals are at the mercy of their abusers. And in many cases, they’ve had their immigration status held over their heads.” Advocates and law enforcement officials say making sure victims feel safe about telling their stories to police and others is critical to solving crimes. That’s why federal law protects their privacy by limiting the number of immigration officials who handle their cases. But the law doesn’t extend to state agencies.