Speed Reads

Unintended consequences

Trump's immigration database could expose abuse victims' personal information to their abusers

The Trump administration in April debuted a new Department of Homeland Security office and database, DHS VINE, dedicated to providing information on the custody status (as well as personal details) of immigrants accused of crime. The database had a bumpy launch, as immigration attorneys soon noticed it listed sensitive information for immigrant babies and toddlers.

That problem was corrected, but The Guardian reports immigration lawyers have identified another major issue: The database lists immigrants who are victims of crimes and have "sought federal protections as survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault." Federal law says these victims' private information is supposed to be kept secret because their abusers could use it to track them down and inflict further harm. The searchable, online database now makes that information available to the public.

"It has certainly put a very powerful tool in the hands of abusers," said Archi Pyati of the Tahirih Justice Center, which offers pro-bono services to immigrants escaping gender-based violence. The Tahirih Justice Center has called on DHS to edit the VINE database to remove victims' information or to shutter the project entirely.