New Immigration Database Exposes Crime Victim Data

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A new U.S. 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, charges a coalition of attorneys, The Guardian reports. The online database, part of President Trump’s 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 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. Civil rights advocates 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 applied for relief under the Violence Against Women Act and 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 of the Tahirih Justice Center, a nonprofit that provides legal services to immigrants and refugees fleeing violence. “Federal law says you’re not allowed to do this.” The Vine database of people in DHS custody is part of Trump’s efforts to crack down on immigrants, including the rollout of a new office dedicated to “victims of immigration crime.”

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