U-Visas and Interim Citizenship
I’m as enthusiastic as the next law-abiding American citizen might be about the idea of putting people who commit crimes behind bars. I’m usually in agreement with programs that help us put criminals behind bars.
However, I’ve just learned that if the victim of the crime is an illegal immigrant, the fact that they have been the victim of a crime is being used to provide them (and quite possibly other members of their family still residing in other countries) with a temporary visa to live in the United States.
And for readers out there, if you are anything like me, the irony of this is probably hitting you right about…….NOW. What? We are providing visas to people who came here illegally in the first place because they have become victims of a crime during their time here????
It’s true. According to the U. S. Immigration Citizens and Immigration Support (USCIS) website, here’s how the system works:
U Visa Application: An application for the U visa is filed with Form I-918, and there are different requirements that must be satisfied before an application can be submitted. The applicant must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse due to a criminal activity in at least one of the following categories: rape, torture, trafficking, incest, domestic violence, sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, prostitution, sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, hostage situations, peonage, false imprisonment, involuntary servitude, slave trade, kidnapping, abduction, unlawful criminal restraint, blackmail, extortion, manslaughter, murder, felonious assault, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, perjury or attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above mentioned crimes.
All petitions must include information on how the victim can assist government officials in learning more about the crime including investigation and/or prosecution of the individual(s) that committed the crime. The victim must also be willing to work with local law enforcement. The crime must have occurred in the United States or in a U.S. territory, or violated U.S. law.
The visa is a “nonimmigrant visa” (being issued by USCIS) that allows temporary legal status and work eligibility for up to four years. It is considered to be an interim visa that grants the individual “deferred status” and keeps them from being deported. This allows the U-Visa holder to apply for a Social Security number. For the time being, the USCIS has legal limitations that allow only 10,000 U-Visas to be accepted per year. How closely are they sticking to the law on this? Since 2009, when this law was passed, there have been 18,654 U-Visa accepted and 5,639 have been rejected. That’s a pretty high acceptance rate of about 77%.
How did I learn about U-Visas? I stumbled across this article in the Daily Mail. Just to quote a few comments from the article:
Defence lawyers say some applicants are defrauding the system by taking cases to court they otherwise wouldn’t in the hope of getting a visa.
‘Getting status in the United States is such a big deal that it really can create an incentive, sometimes just to exaggerate, and sometimes to flat out fabricate,’ says Stephanie Wargo, a San Francisco lawyer who handled a sexual assault case in which the complaining witness was applying for a U visa.
‘I don’t know the solution, but it is a problem.’
One of the criticisms of the programme is that it is too generous in handing out visas.
Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative think tank, attacks the provision that says crime victims can apply for a U visa even after they’ve been officially told they’re being deported.
‘It’s their last-ditch Hail Mary pass to avoid being sent home,’ she said
According to the San Francisco Immigrant Network, this isn’t the case. Their brochure specifically states the following:
Are there risks to applying for U interim relief?
YES. If you have a criminal record, a previous removal/deportation order, or is already in a valid visa status you should talk to an immigration attorney before submitting any application for U interim relief. Also, there is no guarantee that your application will be approved. If it is denied you risk possibly exposing yourself to being put into removal proceedings.
Can I travel if I have applied for or received U interim relief?
NO. There is no procedure right now for applicants or approved U interim relief grantees to travel outside the U.S. If you leave, even for a very short trip, you may not be able to re-enter, even if you already have U interim relief
Arggghhhh!! A person breaks the law coming into this country. They might have a chance to get a U-Visa, which gives them a pass for breaking the law, if they are the victim of a crime. But they should talk to an attorney first before applying??? Wait, shouldn’t there be a point in this process somewhere that focuses on upholding the law…the one about coming into this country illegally in the first place??
This is just another wonderful piece of legislation brought to us by the 111th Congress.
Questions to present to Republicans: How productive has this particular piece of legislation turned out to be? How many convictions have occurred? How many trials? What is the percentage of trials to convictions? Were those trials held at the cost of taxpayer’s? How large is the USCIS? How many branches are in operation? What is the cost to operate this function of our government? Do we provide these “interim citizens” with financial support and new identities??
Is this an absolutely necessary function of our government right now?
If not, can we cut it? As in “having it done YESTERDAY”!!!!
Added Afterthought: Republicans in Congress, I hope that you are following this particular project that the Democrats have put into place to make sure that a thorough background check is being done on each and every one of these individuals who are granted U-Visas. Don’t let individuals with international ties to terrorism sneak in through the back door on this or you will find yourselves with an even angrier populace!!!