DA’s Office, Mexican Consulate Signs Cooperation Deal for Crime Victims, Witnesses
(BANT) – With fears of deportation running high within immigrant communities, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office today renewed an agreement with Mexican authorities intended to encourage Mexican citizens to report crimes and cooperate with prosecutors.
The agreement signed today, which was thought to be the first of its kind in the country when it was first developed five years ago, commits the District Attorney’s Office and Mexican consular officials to communicating with each other about Mexican citizens who are victims and witnesses to crimes and working together to protect them and make certain they have access to services.
In some cases, consular officials may even help locate and bring witnesses back into the country to testify in trials.
District Attorney George Gascon today said the arrangement is even more relevant today than it was when it was first signed, given the climate of fear created by recent changes in federal immigration policy and rhetoric.
“Our immigrant community, especially those who are Latin American, feel that they are under threat,” Gascon said. “People are afraid to engage in civil society.”
Gascon noted that he had seen cases, as a police chief, where undocumented sexual assault victims had been afraid to come forward or testify, allowing their attacker to strike again.
“If you believe that this policy only benefits the immigrant community, you are wrong,” he said. “When you have people committing crimes and they feel they can do so with impunity, they will eventually assault and
harm people regardless of whether they are immigrants or not.”
Mexican consular officials sometimes learn of crimes committed against their citizens before those crimes have been reported to the police.
Gemi Jose Gonzalez Lopez, consul general of Mexico, said the agreement would allow them to assure their citizens that it was safe to report the crime and cooperate with local authorities.
“It’s very important for us to give this message so our communities can know that they are safe, that they should be fearless and that if they are victims of crime that they should go to police,” he said.
“It’s important that they should know they can collaborate with the district attorney’s office.”
Gonzalez Lopez said the Mexican consulate has not seen an increase in hate crimes in the Bay Area since the election, but has seen a large number of worried citizens applying for birth certificates for their children
due to worries that they might have to return to Mexico.
Consular officials have also stepped up programs providing legal advice and assistance to Mexican citizens with questions about American law, including immigration issues, he said.
The district attorney’s office has signed similar agreements with the Philipines Consulate General in San Francisco, among other countries.