A representative from the Office of the Attorney General of Mexico presented a campaign Wednesday aimed at encouraging migrant victims of violent crimes to seek help from law enforcement.
The visit complemented the event’s topic of becoming better advocates for victims of crimes such as human trafficking, sexual assault and domestic violence. Representatives of about 20 advocacy groups gathered in northwest Fresno for the conference, which was entitled “A Community Convening: Conversations Not Heard.”
The keynote speaker, Leonor de Jesus Figueroa Jacome, who is the head of the Investigative Unit of Crimes Against Migrants in the Mexican attorney general’s office, said her unit’s work – although focused on crimes committed in Mexico – provides much of the same help for victims like resource groups in Fresno for Americans.
Figueroa Jacome said the unit investigates cases that involve migrant smuggling, drug and human trafficking, kidnapping and sexual assault. She said there is a focus on crimes in Mexico committed specifically on “vulnerable” migrants who may travel the country, like Mexican or Central American women, children and in some cases unaccompanied child migrants.
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The campaign spearheaded by the unit offers the idea that “Migrar no es delito,” or migrating is not a crime, when it’s done by vulnerable people such as the elderly, women or children. “Before, people migrated for economic reasons,” Figueroa Jacome said in Spanish. “Now, many migrate due to violence.”
Figueroa Jacome said immigrants deported to Mexico become vulnerable to extortion or kidnapping. In some cases, they are never heard from again by family, she said. Mexican immigrants in the U.S. may never seek help after they’ve fled the country, but Figueroa Jacome said those victims of abuse can go through the Mexican Consulate office in Fresno for help from the unit in investigating a crime.
Centro La Familia Advocacy Services hosted the event for the second year, and it was the first time a foreign official visited. Executive Director Margarita Rocha said the focus was on finding ways to encourage residents of different groups – women, LGBTQ people and children – to contact law enforcement when they are victims of abusive crimes.
“If the victim can’t trust law enforcement, they can’t get out of that environment,” she said. “Perpetrators need to know they violated the law.”
Rocha said it’s currently a “work in progress” to create stronger connections with law enforcement locally. She also wants to connect with more governments from different nations. She added that Fresno residents must report suspicious activity to authorities because “that’s sometimes how victims are identified.”