Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini has opened a new office, called the Office of Immigrant Affairs, that will work to broker trust between at-risk communities and law enforcement. Made up of expert prosecutors and bilingual staff, it aims to improve the handling of the increasing number of crimes targeting immigrants.
“All residents of Suffolk County are entitled to have their safety and rights protected,” Mr. Sini said in an Oct. 14 statement. “Unfortunately, all too often, members of immigrant communities are apprehensive to come forward when they have been victimized or witnessed a crime. As a result, such communities and individuals are particularly vulnerable to an assortment of criminal activity, including gang predation, human trafficking, and financial abuse.”
“With the launch of this dedicated team, we want to send a message that we are here to help, regardless of your background or what language you speak. Every resident deserves equal access to justice,” Mr. Sini said.
To help achieve that objective, the Office of Immigrant Affairs will employ a multifaceted approach. First, it will focus on community outreach and education programs, encouraging victims and witnesses to speak out, while dedicating more resources to prosecute criminals who target them. Its goal is to offer enhanced legal and protective services to encourage immigrants who are victims and witnesses to better cooperate with investigators.
Mr. Sini’s strategy reflects a statewide trend: Several other county district attorneys have opened their own immigrant affairs offices. The new Suffolk office has secured money to hire a Spanish-speaking victims’ advocate, bilingual paralegals, a full-time translator, and an immigration law expert to determine any federal consequences of certain crimes.
Minerva Perez, executive director of the Organizacion Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, called the launch of this agency a welcome step for an underserved community.
“OLA has been engaged in several conversations with the D.A. in relation to access and process concerning immigrant victims of sexual assault and other special victims’ crimes,” Ms. Perez said. “We view this as a necessary step in fully addressing the gaps and challenges in handling these cases.”
Anyone seeking assistance from the Office of Immigrant Affairs, or wishing to set up outreach and education programs or report immigrant-targeted crime, has been encouraged to call 631-852-2950.