Aravella Simotas Introduces Legislation to Protect Immigrants

FILE - NY State Assemblymember Aravella Simotas spoke about the plans for Steinway Street as Councilmember Costa Constantinides, Senator Michael Gianaris, merchants, and members of the community look on. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

ASTORIA – Queens Assemblymember Aravella Simotas announced that she is introducing on Monday statewide legislation to prevent the intimidation of crime victims and witnesses who are undocumented immigrants.

Her bill would amend the New York State Penal Law (Section 215.15) to make it an E Felony to report the immigration status of a crime victim or someone who is seeking an order of protection in Family Court.

“The President’s recent executive orders and Homeland Security directives have caused so much fear and confusion, that the Federal government has handed abusers and other criminals a weapon to harass, intimidate and silence fearful victims,” said the Greek-American Assemblymember.

“If predatory criminals can turn in their victims to immigration authorities, our communities become less safe because undocumented victims and witnesses will simply not report crimes,” Simotas said.

Simotas is an immigrant herself as she was born in Zimbabwe, immigrated to the United States from Greece and settled in Astoria with her parents and brother when she was an infant.

The New York State Penal Law currently protects crime victims from harassment, physical violence and threats of physical violence, but it does not address threats of deportation.

“Those brave enough to report abuse must not be silenced by the threat of deportation,” Assemblymember Simotas said.

Aravella Simotas is the New York State Assemblymember representing the 36th District, in Astoria, Queens. She took office in January 2011. She currently chairs the bipartisan Administrative Regulations Review Commission (ARRC).

NYS Penal Law 215.15: http://codes.findlaw.com/ny/penal-law/pen-sect-215-15.html