Bill aims to improve crime reporting by undocumented immigrants

For thousands of undocumented immigrants in Nebraska the idea of reporting a crime is a scary thought. Some lawmakers are trying to change that.

Gilda Sagastume is a legal immigrant from El Salvador. She says she has a good life in the United States but that doesn't stop her from worrying.

“I believe that there is a concern. Some people are afraid of reporting because of their immigration status."

Whether a victim of a crime or a witness with valuable information, people working closely with immigrants say nobody wins when people are afraid to come forward.

Astrid Munn is an attorney at the Immigration Legal Center in Omaha. She says criminals often see immigrants as easy prey.

“They're targeting individuals whom they're banking on being fearful."

It's something to be concerned about even if you're not an immigrant Munn said.

“It's a public safety issue. We don't want a community where perpetrators feel comfortable, feel like they can walk free and commit these violent crimes."

Senator Megan Hunt has introduced a bill aimed at ridding immigrants of this fear.

LB 502, would prevent law enforcement and other officials from asking people about their immigration status and from reporting it unless legally required.

Munn said, “There are instances often when someone may be detained for say a DUI, or has committed domestic violence and they are now in county jail or something. There are instances like that where there is a requirement to inform ICE."

Otherwise, she said, “When someone is a victim of violent crime their immigration status should not be an issue for state and local law enforcement.”

Those opposed to the bill say it would encourage more undocumented immigrants to move to the state.

Gilda thinks the bill would go a long way.

“I believe if the law passed it would help people feel more safe."

According to the latest numbers from the American Immigration Council there are 45,000 undocumented immigrants in Nebraska.

LB 502 went through public hearing last week . It now sits with the Judiciary Committee where they will decide if it goes to the floor of the legislature.