SEPTEMBER 2002

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Information About Undocumented Immigrants Affected by 9/11 Is Confidential
From Hoy
August 22, 2002

By Santiago Bonilla

Those undocumented immigrants who were affected by the fall of the Twin Towers can now sleep in peace.

Governor George Pataki and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said they were glad to hear that the Immigration and Naturalization Service will not use for deportation purposes the information that undocumented victims’ family members give to the Federal Victim Compensation Fund.

This clarification, which was asked for at least a month ago, will help victims and their families give the federal government their personal information and claim benefits without being afraid that the information could cause them to be deported by the immigration service.

"Among those who died on September 11 were undocumented immigrants looking for a better future. This change by the Immigration and Naturalization Service is very important and will help those undocumented workers claim benefits," Pataki said.

Sptizer said that "many family members and undocumented immigrants have been forgotten victims, because even though Congress created a compensation fund, they failed to create a system of compensation for the family members of undocumented workers who died on September 11."

This economical amnesty project for undocumented immigrants affected by September 11 was initiated by William Rodríguez, president of the Hispanic victims’ group, and by Kenneth Feinberg, special administrator of the Victim Compensation Fund and supported by Pataki and Spitzer.

"We are happy that Pataki and Spitzer were able to back this project so that victims and family members can claim benefits without being afraid of being deported and move on with their lives," said Rodriguez.

Congress created the compensation fund so that victims and family members can receive the compensation they deserve after the losses they suffered in the terrorist attacks. The claims are presented through the Department of Justice.

Many of undocumented immigrants who lost family members did not present their claims because the Immigration and Naturalization Service is part of the Department of Justice and they were afraid that their information would be used to deport them

Many employers were reluctant to provide or verify information because they feared fines or repercussions from the Department of Justice because they had hired undocumented workers.

Community groups and leaders, with the support of Pataki and Spitzer, asked the immigration service not to use the information for future deportations. In response to this request, immigration service commissioner James Ziglar wrote a letter to Feinberg explaining that the immigration service would not use the personal information to "initiate" deportation procedures against those applying to the fund and their family members.

At the request of various community groups, Pataki and Spitzer wrote back to Ziglar on July 8 asking him to prohibit the use of this information for any type of deportation procedure.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service accepted the request and agreed not to use this information to deport undocumented immigrants. An immigration service spokesperson said "we will not use the information that family members of undocumented victims send to the Victim Compensation Fund."

 

Translated from Spanish by Erica Pearson

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