Posted by January Contreras
As Women’s History Month draws to a close, it’s important to recognize the vital role the Department of Homeland Security continues to play in increasing the safety and security of women and girls. Today, Secretary Janet Napolitano spoke at a DHS event to commemorate Women’s History Month and to recognize some of the programs and initiatives across the Department that demonstrate our commitment to this priority.
Among the many initiatives highlighted today was DHS’ Blue Campaign – which brings together components from across the Department to help prevent, detect, and investigate human trafficking – a crime that disproportionately affects women and girls. To further support this effort, this spring, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the DHS Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman and the Department of Health and Human Services will begin a collaborative dialogue with our country’s national network of domestic violence shelters and service providers to address human trafficking and violence against women.
Additional examples of DHS’ efforts to increase the safety and security of women and girls include:
- In 2010, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) administered the full statutory allotment of 10,000 visas for victims of domestic crimes who participated in the investigation and prosecution of their perpetrators – for the first time.
- Since 2008, the U.S. Coast Guard has trained more than 150 victim advocates through its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program and Family Advocacy Program to help protect women and girls
- The U.S. Secret Service has partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, offering polygraph support to local law enforcement to help crack cold cases of missing children, as well as abuse and homicide cases.
- Through U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s Victim Assistance Program, 18 new full-time victim assistance specialists have been deployed to 17 ICE offices, in addition to 250 collateral duty Victim Assistance Coordinators, to provide continued guidance and support for victims of violent crimes. ICE is also working closely with the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to help ensure the safety and health of women housed in detention facilities. Across the country, ICE agents are also taking part in anti-trafficking coalitions that partner with local communities to combat human trafficking.
- The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center has deployed programs that train officers on protecting women and girls, including a web-based human trafficking training course and training on violence against women.
- DHS’ Stop.Think.Connect. campaign is increasing public awareness of safe cybersecurity practices and provides parents with the knowledge and tools they need to help their children stay safe online.
While we are extremely proud of our accomplishments in the protection of women and girls, we know there is always the opportunity to do more. As a Department, we are committed to dedicating even more of our efforts to the security of women and girls in the years to come.
January Contreras is the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Ombudsman at the United States Department of Homeland Security