May 19, 2016, Washington D.C., – CASA applauds the passage and adoption today of a law will provide protections to vulnerable populations such as victims of human trafficking who are coerced and forced into labor with threats to disclose undocumented status.
This law represents a major victory for the immigrant rights movement by explicitly criminalizing threats to expose an undocumented Marylander’s immigration status by bad actors including unscrupulous employers as a manner of stealing wages, labor, and other items of value.
“Undocumented immigrants are highly vulnerable to the type of extortion covered by this act, ” said Paulina Vera, Immigration Attorney at CASA. “At CASA’s legal department, we’ve heard numerous stories of immigrants being extorted in various contexts, such as employment or housing.”
The new law will serve to protect immigrants from these exploitative and damaging criminal acts and potentially qualifies immigrants in extreme cases to qualify for a U visa, which conveys a lawful immigration status to victims of a set of qualifying crimes.
Maryland is among a handful of states with similar laws. Only California, Colorado and Virginia have passed laws that offer protections for undocumented immigrants from predators that take advantage of a broken immigration system.
CASA particularly recognizes Senator Susan Lee (D16) and Delegate Maricé Morales (D19) for their leadership in the bill (HB493/SB178 Criminal Law – Extortion – Immigration Status.)