A new ICE policy regarding the staying of removal (deportation) of crime victims with pending U-visa applications will allow ICE, in their discretion, to deport crime victims with pending U-Visa Applications.
What Is A U-Visa?
The U nonimmigrant status (U visa) is set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. Congress created the U nonimmigrant visa with the passage [in 2000] of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act…[which] was intended to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens and other crimes, while also protecting victims of crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse due to the crime and are willing to help law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.
How Will The New Policies Affect Those With Pending U-Visa Applications?
The new ICE policies will allow ICE to use their discretion to deport crime victims who suffered serious harm and who cooperated with law enforcement to help bring the criminal to justice. Even though these crime victims have provided proof that they were a victim of a crime and got a document (supplement b) signed by a district attorney confirming their cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of the criminal, and they are eligible for a visa they can still be deported while they are waiting to get their U-visa.
What makes this such a big deal is that the backlog for U-visas is huge right now. I have clients who have been waiting 4-5 years for USCIS to adjudicate their U-visa application. These people are in limbo for years waiting for a visa because there is a limit on how many are issued per year. Even before these new policies, people waiting for a U Visa lived in fear with no status in the US. Often individuals waiting for a U Visa have to show up for Removal Proceedings (deportation) every 6 months and hope they can keep pushing their case back until it's their turn to get their visa.
Now with these new policies, people waiting on a U Visa are no longer in limbo, rather they are facing the very real possibility of being deported before anyone at USCIS even gets around to adjudicating their U visa application. Furthermore, an individual can get a U-Visa even if they have a criminal record themselves, or if they have a prior deportation order, or other immigration violations. The only restrictions on U-Visas is that they cannot be issued to Nazis or terrorists. With the new policies, ICE can deport someone for their prior deportation order, prior immigration violation, or prior criminal issue even though the law specifically provides that they are still eligible for a U-Visa.
There is a good reason why individuals with prior immigration violations or criminals records are still eligible for a U-Visa. Immigrants in the US without status are often targeted by criminals because they are particularly vulnerable because of their immigration status. Criminals take advantage of the fact that individuals in the US without legal status are going to be scared and unwilling to go to the police or cooperate with law enforcement in the prosecution of criminals if they do report it.
The U-Visa is a powerful tool in combating crime in the US. It allows people who are in the US without legal status to contact the authorities and to work with the authorities to put dangerous criminals in jail. Many criminals are able to operate vast criminal enterprises trafficking drugs and even humans because they use illegal immigrants that they tricked into getting involved, knowing that these illegal immigrants will be too scared to go to the police and turn them in because they would be risking deportation.
U-Visas are so important because they allow one of the most vulnerable populations in our country to be protected under the law the same as everyone else but they also allow criminals to be turned in and prosecuted uses witnesses that normally could not step forward because of the risk of deportation.
The new ICE policy will have a major chilling affect on all the positive aspects of the U-Visa. This new policy will be taking America back to the days before the U-Visa existed. Now that U-Visa applicants are not protected from deportation while they wait for their visa, which will take years, those in the country illegally will no longer be able to call the police to report a crime or cooperate in a major investigation, or testify against the criminals that harmed them without risking that they will be torn away from their family and their home and forcibly removed from the US and sent back to a country where they will face horrible life-threatening conditions.
By issuing this new ICE policy, the Trump Administration has done human traffickers, sex traffickers, pimps, and drug lords a huge favor.
The new ICE policy does not only hurt crime victims who are in the US without legal status but it serves to help these heinous & vicious criminals to keep exploiting a vulnerable population to further their criminal enterprises. This new policy is a gift to them.
A quote that is often wrongfully attributed to Gandhi is,
"THE TRUE MEASURE OF ANY SOCIETY CAN BE FOUND IN HOW IT TREATS ITS MOST VULNERABLE MEMBERS"
Apparently there is no proof Gandhi ever said thisbut it is a variation of a quote from former Vice-President Herbert Humphrey who spoke about the treatment of the weakest members of society as a reflection of a government, “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
I mention the issue of where this quote comes from because I believe Vice-President Humphrey raised a valid point. The way in which a society treats its most vulnerable members is not just a reflection of society but of Government.
US immigration policy demonstrates how out of control our Federal Government has become with the multi-billion dollar Department of Homeland Security, racially biased legislation, and the need to control the free flow of people to protect its own power. It also demonstrates how apathetic, privileged, and selfish we have become as a society. The current US immigration policy is appalling and will one day be remembered as a dark time in our history akin to the Jim Crow Era, but our modern "progressive" society shows no outrage and takes no action to end it.
In fact, both our Government and our society continue to worsen the issue. Our Government legislates mandatory detention and minimal capacity requirements for immigration detention facilities and fails to take any action to pass laws that would treat people born outside the US as humans that are entitled to the same human rights as US citizens. Our Courts continue to uphold bad laws that deny constitutional rights to immigrants and our legislature fails to change the bad laws, so we hold meaningless ceremonial deportation hearings where the Respondent has no lawyer, can't understand anything that is being said, and is then shackled and put on a plane, as if that is due process.
Our society looks the other way because we benefit from exploiting this vulnerable class for cheap labor, while simultaneously blaming them for taking away jobs because they are willing to do work we won't do for less money than we will accept. Our society's greatest sin is apathy. We don't care that our simple lives come at a very complex price. No one thinks about human trafficking and the exploitation of migrants when they buy produce.
Now our Government has taken another step to further strip these individuals of protection under the law because they now the U-Visa is a meaningless gesture since ICE can ignore it and deport the crime victim anyway. Now more crime victims will be unable to seek the help of the authorities. Society seems to have taken another step towards doing the same because this issue isn't leading to massive protests in the streets of every major city--This issue isn't even making the ten o'clock news.
When it comes to US immigration policy, the way in which we treat the most vulnerable members of society shows us the ugliest side of our Government and our society.