Travis County DA Works to Shield Witnesses, Victims From Deportation
AUSTIN, Texas - Many undocumented immigrants fear deportation now more than ever, especially with Senate Bill 4 set to soon go into effect. Officials say those fears are preventing key victims and witnesses involved in felony cases from wanting to cooperate. It's what's inspired the Travis County District Attorney to act.
"We want the victims and witnesses to feel comfortable cooperating with us," said DA Margaret Moore.
Moore has come up with a possible solution. Her office will send letters to people who are in the country illegally and need to appear in court.
"In the case of a defendant, there's a criminal history that would show ICE that this person has a pending charge but with a victim or witness there's no record," said Moore.
The letter will state that the individual is either a key witness or victim in a pending Travis County felony case. That way if ICE picks them up, they have proof that the DA's office needs them.
"I think it's an excellent idea for the DA to do something like that because then they'll have something to show someone and it cuts down on the amount of fear that they would have," said Kelly Ausley-Flores, a family law attorney.
The DA says there's no telling whether ICE will honor the letters.
"They said there's no guarantee that they will look at each of these situations on a case-by-case basis," said Moore.
Still, she remains hopeful.
"I do think that they have a policy and if they're going to follow their own policy, we've given them a mechanism to ascertain that a person they're holding is a victim or witness," said Moore.
But it remains to be seen whether the effort will have an impact on ICE or those victims and witnesses who fear deportation.