Immigration lawyer, Kathryn N. Karam, P.C., was recently invited to talk to Harris County, Constable Alan Rosen about Immigration and crime. This short chat also covers why it's important to report crimes if you are undocumented and what happens if an undocumented person reports a crime. Here's the link to the video interview on Facebook. Her talk begins about 39 minutes into the show. Below you will find the transcript of the video interview with some helpful topic titles to help you find information quickly.
Immigration Lawyer in Houston
Host: Our next guest we’re going to visit with is Kathryn Karam, who is an immigration and nationality lawyer and specializes in dealing with finding creative solutions to many complex problems that arise when people are dealing in the United States immigration system.
This always segues into our teen summit, because I know that we have a fair amount of Latino and other culturally ethnic groups that come to our teen summit. And often I get the questions of, “well, what happens when law enforcement stops my mom or my dad and they’re undocumented, what’s going to happen to them, and how’s it going to affect me,” and they’re further scared of law enforcement.
I know we talked about this before, but if an undocumented person is a victim of a crime, we want to know about it. I’m not asking for immigration papers, I’m asking for the facts and circumstances surrounding the crime that was perpetrated upon you and that’s all that matters to us.
So I want to make sure that message gets out there very clearly, that it’s very important to report crime and especially if you’re the victim of a crime. And that’s goes a lot for domestic violence. We had a show a couple weeks ago about domestic violence and many of our women that are undocumented are taking abuse that they shouldn’t otherwise because they’re fearful of coming to law enforcement.
So I’m glad you’re going to participate in that and going to provide some of the legal rights in case those questions come up from our kids that are going to attend our teen summit and were also encouraging parents to come to so they can ask questions and be part of the dialogue.
Kathryn N. Karam is an immigration lawyer in Houston.
What Undocumented People Don’t Know About the Criminal System
Kathryn Karam: Thank you.
Host: Good. So what do you find, in immigration law, when it deals with the criminal justice system that is one of the misnomers or misunderstandings or not known about the criminal justice system and undocumented workers or people?
Immigration Law is complex
Kathryn Karam: Well, one thing is immigration is it’s hard to, it’s very complex, immigration law is complex, there’s a lot of different technicalities that people have to deal with when they’re going through any kind of immigration process.
It’s Important to Report Crimes if You’re Undocumented
And you’re right that a lot of people in the immigrant community feel that it’s not a good idea to call law enforcement because they feel like they’re likely to be arrested themselves and so they don’t want to report something that’s happening because a fear of, you know, bringing themselves onto the radar. But also, it’s interesting because I find sometimes too, that people don’t know what’s serious enough to report anyway and so that’s another problem.
And your precinct recently had an event to educate educators in the area about human trafficking and I found that as I work with people who are trafficking victims, I started to do that now. A lot of people don’t even think that’s what’s happened to them is anything wrong they think maybe that’s it’s just par for the course, not worth mentioning. And so it’s important for people to know.
I applaud Harris county for not asking about somebody’s immigration status and being focused on what actually happened and was there a crime here, because that should be the focus. That’s how our communities stay safer. But also, it’s important for people in the immigrant community to know, that if something has happened to you and you’re wondering about it, if it’s already happened, it’s not, like, happening right now, if it’s happening right now, call law enforcement.
Host: Absolutely. Call 911.
Talk to an Attorney About Your Immigration Status
Kathryn Karam: But if it’s happened and you’re thinking “gee, I don’t know if that’s something that matters,” an attorney like myself or somebody else can talk to you about and try to figure out if it’s something that affects your immigration status or your possibilities to apply for immigration status. There are visas for crime victims. There are visas for victims of trafficking.
They’re not something that’s going to happen overnight. They’re something that we really have to work to prepare you for and make sure we have the information we need. But it’s really important for people to know about those things because there are lots of people who sadly, this is just the way of immigration law if written right now, there are a lot of people who come to me and tell me ‘well, I have a child here and he or she is going to be 21 soon, can they just file for me?’ Sometimes that not going to work depending on your immigration history, sometimes marrying somebody is not, I would never tell someone to marry some just to get immigration status anyway.
Host: Of course not.
An Experienced Immigration Attorney Can Screen for Eligibility for Crime Victim or Trafficking Visas
Kathryn Karam: But even if you’re married to someone who’s a citizen, sometimes that’s not going to allow you to get legal status. Some people don’t know that, but that’s why I start screening for crimes that have occurred, that somebody’s a victim of, or trafficking because sometimes those are ways for a person to apply for status when they otherwise wouldn’t qualify.
They wouldn’t qualify through a family member or something like that, so it’s really important for people to know about because there are people out there in our communities and our surrounding areas that have talked to someone and within a short period of time they’re able to say “yeah, your spouse or your child are not going to be able to file for you, I’m sorry,” and that’s it.
Sometimes, later on, something else happens. Sometimes its just that somebody didn’t think this was important, didn’t bring it up but it’s important for people to know, to mention things like that and to get advice about it. Because sometimes that’s the only way that someone is ever going to have a shot at legal status, unfortunately until things change with the immigration laws.
What if I’m Undocumented and My Child is a Victim?
Host: My fear is you have parents that are undocumented and something happens to the child.
Kathryn Karam: Yes.
Host: And they don’t want to report the crime that happened on the child for fear that somehow they’re going to get deported or somethings going to happen to them and then sadly that child’s been victimized without any support whatsoever, from the criminal justice system or victims assistance programs.
And I am really fearful of that, that there are kids being hurt or victims of crimes and the parents are discouraging or not allowing the kids to come forward and so I know that we always have the ability at our teen summit to dialogue one-on-one with the child.
So we all always say “if you want to talk to us about anything, privately, and step off into another room and we can talk, and really we are there to help,” and so I know that those..I think that…do you think there’s a lot of that happening or do you feel like that’s happening at all where a child is a victim of a crime but the parents are too scared to report it for fear of their own status?
If You are Undocumented and Your Child is a Victim, You May Have Immigration Options
Kathryn Karam: You know, I don’t personally have a client that’s had that situation. Fortunately the people I’m representing right now, I have some families that have reported a crime against one of the children in the family and I’m glad that they did, but I do believe that happens sometimes. And I agree with you that, that’s a tragedy that you can’t report a crime against a child because you’re afraid.
And one thing I want to say, to anybody who’s out there listening, is if you have friends whose parents are undocumented or maybe you yourself are, the same thing that I just said about crime victims and trafficking victims, it goes for the parents of the children that this happens to. It’s important to report that and to know about it because it may change what you’re able to do in terms of your immigration case.
If you’re the parent of a child who’s been the victim of a crime, that may change your immigration options. We have some clients like that right now and so if you’re a parent and this has happened to your child, it’s important to report that not just because you need your child’s case to be dealt with and so you don’t have a predator out there, but beyond that it may also be something that opens up an immigration option for you too. And so it’s important.
I know that when we spoke the other day I mentioned that I wanted to be sure that people who report something who are undocumented or has a parent or somebody that is undocumented, I want them to know about these options and to know that they’re there because a lot of people don’t but it’s important for people to know so that can pursue the option if it’s there.
If You or Your Child are a Victim of Crime or Trafficking, Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney for Help
Host: Excellent. Well I just want to thank you, I want to thank you for also taking part in our teen summit and being there and hopefully if there is some cry out or if there is some problem with regards to immigration and reporting and things like that, that you’ll be that voice of expertise. I know that you’re board certified in immigration and nationality law and I just want to thank you for partnering with us and being there with us.
If Your Parent is Undocumented and is a Victim, Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney
Kathryn Karam: Well thank you for inviting me to part of it. I’m glad to be and I just want to mention too because one thing that I’ve started to notice as I begin to work with victims of trafficking in my office is, and I think the kids who are out there listening are the kids who will attend this event, need to know that if you’re parents are undocumented and they’re working hard, and a lot of people do, it’s very common for them not to think of things that have happened to them as not significant or not worth mentioning anywhere.
But if your mom or dad was working somewhere, and they got stiffed on their paycheck a few times or they were told ‘hey, you say anything about this, I’m calling immigration on you,” that’s something you need to go talk to an attorney about. And let me say one more thing, because we think of trafficking people as, like, smuggling people across a border or something. It’s not, it can happen all within the United States to begin with.
Host: In the labor force.
Kathryn Karam: It can be labor trafficking. That’s one way that can happen, is an employer or a contractor doing something like that. And so, your segment earlier with officer McKinney, was talking about trust of law enforcement in the community. There’s also a problem of trusting attorneys for undocumented people sometimes. They worry that they’re going to tell me something and I’m going to go report them and it’s like, no, my job is to see if I can help you.
Host: That’s right. And it’s confidential.
Kathryn Karam: Yes! And so it’s, you know, if your mom or dad has something happen to them and they’re thinking, ‘oh, there’s nothing I can do for it, it’s just par for the course for people like me,” it’s not and you need to go talk to someone about it and see if there’s anything you can do
Host: Thank you so much I appreciate it.
Kathryn N. Karam and her team of attorneys can answer your immigration questions and find creative ways to help you. You can schedule a consultation by clicking this button below.