Prosecuting crimes targeted at immigrants is an aim of a new program at the Nassau district attorney's office, with authorities saying Monday they wouldn't check the immigration status of victims or witnesses who come forward.
Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas said the initiative grew out of what she sees as "room for improvement" when it comes to protecting immigrants. The program also will focus on encouraging immigrants to cooperate with authorities to help solve crimes.
"I know firsthand from growing up how hard it can be for immigrants to assimilate and to communicate with agencies that represent them," said Singas, a first-generation American whose parents were from Greece. "We need to make sure that these witnesses and victims are not afraid to come forward."
She said financial fraud and domestic violence were among crimes affecting immigrants.
As director of the new Immigrant Fraud Investigations unit, Silvia Pastor Finkelstein, 59, will do outreach, prosecute financial cases and connect people with other bureaus in the district attorney's office. The Madrid-born assistant district attorney speaks Spanish and French, and is an office veteran who most recently served as a deputy chief of the Street Narcotics and Gang Bureau.
"The district attorney's office speaks your language and we are here for you," she said Monday.
People can call a tip line at 516-571-7755 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Authorities said that within the district attorney's office, personnel speak a dozen languages besides English, including Korean, Polish and Russian.
Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said officers aren't allowed to ask about immigration status, and the department would "aggressively investigate" complaints.
Attorney Tracy Auguste, an official with Amistad Long Island Black Bar Association, said the program will help "calm the worries" of immigration law clients.
Frank Torres, the Long Island Hispanic Bar Association's vice president, said he believed it would open the door to letting immigrants speak confidently to authorities.