Advocates for immigrant victims of violent crime are decrying a Department of Homeland Security database that has made protected victims’ private information searchable—despite it being against the law. The DHS Victim Information Notification Exchange (VINE) makes public the legally protected information of VAWA, T, and U visa applicants, according to the advocacy organizations who work with these immigrant victims.
U visas are offered to immigrants who have been violently victimized in the US. T visas are offered to survivors of human trafficking in the US. Both visas are given in exchange for the victims’ cooperation with law enforcement to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators. VAWA applicants have suffered severe domestic abuse at the hands of US citizen family members.
The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000 protect these victims’ information and make it confidential. Without these protections, survivors are vulnerable to discovery by their abusers—one of the chief fears that would prevent a victim of abuse from coming forward. Abusers often exert power and control over their victims by interfering with their immigration cases or harming them upon discovery of their relocation.
That’s why it is absolutely vital that all law enforcement agencies comply with the confidentiality protections set by VAWA and VTVP. According to the law, DHS is forbidden from disclosing information about these victims applying for relief—making the search feature on the VINE database illegal.
Non-profit advocacy groups opposing the inclusion of this protected information have notified DHS that victims applying for relief were illegally listed on their database. Despite putting survivors’ lives in danger and violating federal law, DHS has yet to take down the information.
The Tahirih Justice Center, ASISTA, ABI-GBV, and Casa de Esperanza have joined together and asked DHS to remove the information or shut down the database completely. Currently, it appears that the VINE database is still operational
Join the Fight
If you want to join us in asking DHS to edit or take down the database, tweet @DHSgov and ask them to #ProtectSurvivors. Include this link to the official statement released by the advocacy groups listed above: http://bit.ly/DHSVINE.
Our Raleigh immigration attorneys are proud to stand with immigrant advocates nationwide against a dangerous and illegal breach of confidentiality. The victims of violent crime deserve to be protected, regardless of status. We will continue to raise our voices until DHS takes action on their behalf.
DHS has dangerously and illegally included the information of victims of violent crimes on their public and searchable VINE database. Learn more on the Gardner Law, PLLC blog today.
DHS' VINE database includes confidential info about survivors of violence. We have asked @DHSgov to #ProtectSurvivors http://bit.ly/DHSVINE