Illegal immigrants typically are loathe to report abuse they suffer because of fear of deportation; but there is a ray of hope for them with the U visa.
We wrote about how undocumented immigrants are more likely to suffer from wage theft in our Law and Daily Life post here. The New York Times quotes Susan Bowyer, the managing lawyer for the Oakland office of the International Institute of the Bay Area as saying, "Undocumented immigrants are unbelievably vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and victimization because their fear of detection keeps them from reporting that victimization."
The U visa was created by Congress in October 2000 in order to help law enforcement agencies investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens, and other crimes. The U visa was created to help offer protection to victims of these crimes.
According to the Office of Communications of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, there are four requirements for eligibility:
- The individual must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of a qualifying criminal activity.
- He/she has information concerning that criminal activity.
- He/she has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
- The criminal activity must have violated the laws of the United States or occurred in the U.S.
The criminal activity typically pertains to crimes involving domestic violence, sexual abuse, trafficking and other crimes that specifically affect illegal immigrants.
The New York Times reports that nearly three fourths of the applicants for the U visa are victims of domestic violence. Supporters of the U visa say that staving off domestic violence help communities become safer. Lt. Kevin Wiley, commander of the Oakland Police Department's special victims unit, told the New York Times that the police often find that domestic violence offenders often have many victims.
While this visa has been helpful, there are people who oppose it. Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for Immigration Reform was quoted by the New York Times as saying, "Why should we have to provide incentives for people not here legally when we do nothing extra for people who are here legally?"