Crime victims receive immigration relief

Undocumented immigrants who are illegally living in the United States are often reticent when it comes to reporting crimes. This reticence has led to Congress creating the ‘U visa’ program, which gives victims of domestic violence, assault and other serious criminal offences legal status providing they assist law enforcement with the investigations into the crimes.

It can be difficult to submit an application for a U visa, however, depending on the immigrant’s location within the United States. A rule that offers a new 45-day deadline to streamline the entire process has been proposed by the New York City Police Department and has the support of a number of immigrant advocates. US Citizenship and Immigration Services decides who gets a U visa but applications have to be filed locally, usually at a police department.

Police often play a vital role within the U visa process, as a form must be signed by either an officer or a government official to certify that an immigrant was the victim of a serious crime and helped with the subsequent investigation. Immigration attorney CJ Wang says that the New York Police Department has been slow with regard to certifying applications. The wait can sometimes last over 12 months and result in the immigrant’s deportation.

Police are sometimes reluctant to sign the form in the belief they are giving legal status to undocumented immigrants; however, Wang says this is not the case. “All certification is, is attesting to the fact that the victim has cooperated,” she says. “That’s all it is. It is nothing more.”