November 03, 2011 at 06:01 PM EST
Through the bi-partisan support and passage of the Violence Against Women Act and the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, Congress has expressed its strong support of law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting domestic violence and other crimes. These laws also provide critical support to immigrant victims in stepping forward to report crimes. This week, we saw Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies collaborate with non-governmental organizations to ensure these laws are carried out effectively.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security partnered with the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council, and Arizona Peace Officer and Standards Training Board to provide training about law enforcement and victim protection tools that exist in Federal laws. I had the privilege of moderating this gathering of local law enforcement officers and prosecutors, along with officials from Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) who brought their experience and expertise to the forum to advance public safety. This is just one example of an unprecedented level of outreach being conducted by the Department with state and local law enforcement about these issues.
Yesterday, in that same spirit, I participated in the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s Community Engagement Day where I learned about the challenges facing the participants, and shared the work of the White House Council on Women and Girls and the related efforts of the Department of Homeland Security. This year’s Community Engagement Day addressed the complexities of immigration policies for victims of domestic violence, a particularly relevant topic to the Department. To illustrate how challenging these issues can be, the program included an exercise illustrating real stories of domestic violence victims. After this, a USCIS colleague and I were able to listen to feedback, answer questions, and share information about our work with representatives from 56 statewide and territorial coalitions against domestic and sexual violence, as well as tribal network members.
As the Department of Homeland Security’s designee to the White House Council on Women and Girls, I work with colleagues throughout the Department on our efforts to combat violence against women. As we continue to advance this work, we are committed to maintaining an open dialogue with state and local law enforcement officials and non-profit service providers who are on the frontlines of responding to domestic violence, to continue providing training and resources based on the situation on the ground. We look forward to continuing these partnerships in communities throughout the country.
January Contreras is the Ombudsman for Citizenship and Immigration Services at the Department of Homeland Security.