USCIS: U Visa Program Fully Utilized in Fiscal 201028 Jul 2010
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on July 15th that the agency reached a major goal this year in granting all 10,000 of the available U visas to nonimmigrant crime victims who seek to remain in the United States. (See USCIS Reaches Milestone: 10,000 U Visas Approved in Fiscal Year 2010: Questions and Answers, 15.Jul.2010.) According to USCIS, the U visa was established to help law enforcement officials investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crimes, while offering the victims the immigration status protection necessary to gain their cooperation in putting the offenders behind bars. Eligibility for U visas is limited to “victims of certain crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse as a result of the criminal activity and are willing to help law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.”
Without the U visa, undocumented immigrants may fear that they have too much to lose by reporting a crime, and simply refuse to talk with police and prosecutors who want to bring the perpetrators to justice. The number of U visas is capped at 10,000 per year, and in years past, far fewer U visas were issued. According to the Associated Press, immigrant advocates sued the government in 2007 after it failed to issue any U visas, and only 52 U visas were granted in all of 2008. Only last year did the approval numbers jump, to approximately 6,000 U visas granted, Associated Press reports. (See All 10,000 Crime Victim Visas Issued, by Suzanne Gamboa, Associated Press, 16.Jul.2010.) Now that the program is fully utilized, let us hope that Congress will finally raise the cap, so that no immigrant – regardless of his or her immigration status – can be victimized with impunity.