Immigrants Don’t Be Afraid
by: Joseph Brant
Alexandra Carrera and Avery Griffin presented their bill, which ensures that the “immigration and/or citizenship status of an official witness within a criminal investigation may not be revealed.” This bill will protect immigrants and inspire witnesses to come forward, free from the threat of deportation.
The bill was largely inspired by the Marlena Ochoa-Lopez case in the news and the illegal immigrants in Carrera’s family. She stated that “people are afraid to come forward and use the criminal justice system that we should be proud of. They are afraid to come forward because they are afraid of deportation.”
This bill would alter how criminal indictments are processed. In terms of changing procedure, it would not be an inconvenience or a large difference. However, this bill could be a major factor in the resolution of many cases. By removing the question of citizenship from an official witness statement, the bill’s authors seek to protect immigrant rights.
The bill will be enforced through a $10,000 fine should a municipality fail to comply. This money would go towards the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
Carrera worries that “there will be some arguments that [the bill] is protecting people who came to this country illegally, and that in itself is a crime.” However, she refutes this idea by saying that the main purpose of her bill is to “expedite the indictment process,” not solely protect immigrant rights.
Returning to the Ochoa-Lopez case that inspired the bill, Carerra stated that the fear of deportation “made things a lot more difficult to find [the criminals] and get them off the streets before they did it to someone else.”