Also sometimes referred to as a ‘crime victim visa’, a U visa provides much needed immigration relief to certain crime victims who cooperate with law enforcement and prosecutors. The U visa helps to make our communities safer, as it creates a process that allows undocumented immigrants to work with law enforcement without fear of being deported.
Unfortunately, there is new evidence suggesting that the Trump Administration has undermined the process. Earlier this month, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released comprehensive U visa stats for 2019. Petitions for U visas were down by nearly 20 percent when compared to the previous year.
Why such a sudden, dramatic change? Immigrant rights groups believe that the Trump Administration’s harsh enforcement tactics have made undocumented immigrants too afraid to call the police. This is a tragedy: People should be able to feel comfortable seeking protection from law enforcement.
How Law Enforcement Agencies Undermine U Visa Protections
Unfortunately, there is also evidence that many police departments across the country are, through their internal policies, restricting access to U visas. In November, Reveal News published an illuminating and disheartening story on the impact these policies have on real people. The report focuses on the story of a woman named Nataly Alcantara, an undocumented immigrant who lives in South Florida with her husband and young children.
In 2014, two men broke into her apartment in the middle of the night and demanded money at knifepoint. After they stole $300 and an iPhone, the men fled the scene. She immediately dialed 911 and officers were dispatched to the scene. She cooperated extensively with police—not only answering all of the questions that they had but also helping them get access to the scene and even taking proactive steps to track down the assailants.
In return, Ms. Alcantara only wanted one thing from the Miami Police Department: Sign a letter certifying her cooperation so that she could apply for a U visa. Under U.S. immigration regulations, U visa petitioners need to produce evidence that they worked with the police. Even though she spent months cooperating, the Miami Police Department refused the request. They did not offer verification.
Sadly, this is a relatively common practice in many police departments across the country. According to a study conducted by the Center for Investigative Reporting, more than 25 percent of American police departments have internal policies against helping undocumented immigrants apply for U visas.
Call Our Los Angeles U Visa Lawyers Today
At the Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, our California U visa attorneys are compassionate, attentive advocates for our clients. If you have questions or concerns about applying for a U visa, we are here to help. Call us today for a completely confidential consultation. With a law office in Los Angeles, we represent immigrants throughout our region, including in Anaheim, Long Beach, San Bernardino, Santa Monica, and beyond.