The U Visa: Why Are State Prosecutors Involved in Federal Immigration Issues?
Has The U Visa Outlived Its Intended Purpose?
Timothy L. Taylor, J.
As a prosecutor for the State of Utah, I receive several requests every month to sign U Visa applications for illegal immigrants and their family members who are victims of certain crimes. Most of these requests come to my office months or years after the case involving the victims has been adjudicated. This article will briefly describe the history and purpose of the U Visa and then posit the following questions: Why are state prosecutors involved in federal immigration issues? Has the U Visa outlived its intended purpose?
In October 2000, Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act “to combat trafficking in persons…whose victims are predominantly women and children [and] to ensure just and effective punishment of traffickers.” Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, Pub L. No. 106-386, 114 Stat. 1491 (2000). In addition, Congress enacted the Battered Immigrant Women Protection Act of 1999. This legislation “frees [victims] to cooperate with law enforcement and prosecutors in criminal cases brought against their abusers and the abusers of their children without fearing that the abuser will retaliate by withdrawing or threatening withdrawal of access to an immigration benefit under the abuser’s control.” Battered Immigrant Women Protection Act of 1999, H.R. 3083, 106th Cong. (1999). Out of these pieces of legislation, the U Visa was born.
Basically, the U Visa was created to help law enforcement investigate and prosecute individuals whose victims were not U.S. citizens. The federal legislation encouraged victims to cooperate with law enforcement without fearing, for example, that the abuser would withdraw his immigration sponsorship for the victim, in which case the victim would be deported and unable to testify. The legislation also authorized the victim’s family members to receive the U Visa benefits.
To qualify for a U Visa, a person must meet the following criteria: (1) the person is a victim of a qualifying criminal activity; (2) the victim possesses information about the crime; (3) the victim suffered substantial physical or mental abuse from the crime; (4) the victim was, is, or is likely to be helpful in assisting law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime; and (5) the U Visa application is signed by a certifying official.
The U Visa has several benefits for those not lawfully in the United States: • Ability to...