Illegal Immigrants Who Are Victims of Crimes Eligible for Temporary Visa

Illegal immigrants who are victims of crime may be eligible for a temporary U Visa in order to help police make an arrest.

U Visa

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Many victims of crimes who are in the country illegally are afraid to come forward during an investigation for fear of being deported. The U Visa is a temporary visa, good for up to four years that is reserved to protect victims of crimes by ensuring the victims will not face deportation if they are able to help law enforcement investigate and prosecute their aggressors.

Eligibility requirements

According to the Department of Homeland Security, a person may be eligible for a U visa, otherwise known as U nonimmigrant visa, if they:

• “are the victim of qualifying criminal activity.
• have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity.
• have information about the criminal activity. If [they] are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may possess the information about the crime on your behalf (see glossary for definition of ‘next friend’).
• were helpful, are helpful, or are likely to be helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. If [they] are under the age of 16 or unable to provide information due to a disability, a parent, guardian, or next friend may assist law enforcement on [their] behalf.
• The crime occurred in the United States or violated U.S. laws.
• are admissible to the United States. If [they] are not admissible, [they] may apply for a waiver on a Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant.”

Also listed by the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are the ‘qualifying criminal activities” which are:

• Abduction
• Abusive Sexual Contact
• Blackmail
• Domestic Violence
• Extortion
• False Imprisonment
• Female Genital Mutilation
• Felonious Assault
• Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting
• Hostage
• Incest
• Involuntary Servitude
• Kidnapping
• Manslaughter
• Murder
• Obstruction of Justice
• Peonage
• Perjury
• Prostitution
• Rape
• Sexual Assault
• Sexual Exploitation
• Slave Trade
• Stalking
• Torture
• Trafficking
• Witness Tampering
• Unlawful Criminal Restraint
• Other Related Crimes*†”

Abuse of a well-intended program

While the U visa was created originally to help those who were victims of sex trafficking through the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, it is swelled into a free-for-all for any illegal immigrant willing to prosecute another person who has wronged them in order to be granted temporary citizenship. Otherwise minor offenses such as stalking, blackmail, and witness tampering are now qualifying criminal activities that can secure a victim a temporary citizenship. Those who are victims of more heinous crimes such as female genital mutilation, rape, and sex trafficking now have to fight for one of the 10,000 U visas granted annually.

Used ONLY if/when needed

Another concern over the U Visa program is the lack of a deadline between when a crime is committed and when a petition for a U visa is accepted. Victims of qualifying criminal activities can apply for a U Visa immediately after the crime or even over a decade later which was the case for Javier Flores Garcia of Philadelphia. Garcia and his brother were attacked by two other illegal immigrants, with Garcia and his brother suffering several stab wounds. The incident took place in 2004 yet Garcia did not apply for a U Visa and offer to help prosecute his assailants until 2016. Twelve years had passed, and Garcia only agreed to help police make a case against the two men when he himself was suddenly facing deportation.

Unfair tool to obtain a conviction

Although the U Visa has its place to help victims of crimes suffering from physical and mental abuse, many feel it is being overused and/or abused. Until the U Visa program is reexamined and revised to only help those who truly need it, its use in obtaining a conviction or rising a case from the dead should be strictly limited.

Racially Motivated Traffic Stops and Searches

The topic of racially motivated traffic stops has been up for debate national wide as well as in Utah, with many claiming drivers who are not of Caucasian decent are overly scrutinized while suffering through more search and seizures than other drivers.

Minorities and traffic stops

According to the Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Statistics regarding traffic stops that resulted in searches, “a lower percentage of white drivers stopped by police in 2011 were searched (2%) than black (6%) or Hispanic (7%).“ While 6-7% of minorities beings searched to 2% of whites may not seem like enough of a spike to be considered excessively abnormal, it begins to raise eyebrows when one takes into account the total population of each race. In the year prior to the traffic stop statistics shared by the OJP, the 2010 census stated that:

• 72% of the U.S. population identified as being white alone;
• 28% identified as being Black, Hispanic, or another minority race.

6-7% of a lesser population of Americans being searched by police versus 2% or a larger population should be cause for concern.

Unbalanced prison population

Since research has shown that those of color or ethnic backgrounds face more scrutiny during traffic stops than whites who are the predominate race, it isn’t a surprise to know that the prison population is unbalanced rationally as well. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit non-partisan group that organizes statistical information on incarceration rates nationwide, in Utah jails and prisons in 2010:

• there were seven times more Black inmates than Whites;
• over twice as many Hispanics to whites; and
• four times more American Indian/Alaska Natives to Whites.

These numbers are even more alarming considering Utah is predominately white (78.8% white non-Hispanic).

Racial profiling defense

If the amount of traffic stops resulting in searches and seizures was not ethnically discriminatory, there is a good chance the racial divide of those incarcerated in Utah would even out as well. For those who wish to discuss charges attained following a traffic stops and search that could have been racially driven, contact a criminal defense attorney who is impartial to racial differences.

Traveling Internationally with a DUI Conviction

Having a DUI conviction can result in jail time, hefty fines and a suspended or revoked driver’s license, but in can also affect plans for traveling internationally.

Traveling internationally

Photo by: James Brooks

Those with felonies on their record tend to hesitate before traveling internationally as they likely understand their record can follow them wherever they go. Some countries have stricter policies regarding certain crimes and may not be welcoming to those who have been convicted of driving under the influence, even if the charge is a misdemeanor. Most international travel from U.S. citizens happens across borders, which includes the countries of Mexico and Canada. Being close by and sharing a continent may cause people to assume they can travel there freely with a passport, but that isn’t always the case.

Canada

Canadians are known as being overly friendly but this is not the case to those with a DUI conviction. While a DUI in the U.S. may be a misdemeanor, it could be a felony in Canada. If this is the case, sources note there is could be a 10 year limit that a U.S. travelers with DUI convictions are barred from crossing the Canadian border. For those that wish to visit Canada before that long 10 year limit, according to the Canada Border Services Agency, “Depending on the crime, how long ago it was committed, and how you have behaved since the conviction, you may still be allowed to come to Canada, if you:

• convince an immigration officer that you meet the legal terms to be deemed rehabilitated, or
• applied for rehabilitation and were approved, or
• were granted a record suspension, or
• have a temporary resident permit.”

Mexico

Photo by: jrsnchzhrs

It is a misconception that Mexico is more lax in its policies toward DUI convictions. While Mexico’s policies seem to change frequently, Mexican officials have access to the U.S. criminal database (Interpol). If it will show up on someone’s record in the U.S., it can show up when they try to enter Mexico. While traveling following a misdemeanor DUI conviction usually won’t end in trouble, there have been several people who have been denied entrance to Mexico for a felony DUI conviction on their record. If a felony DUI doesn’t stop someone from entering Mexico, it has the potential to create a hassle for them upon return to the States.

Know before you go

Anyone with a criminal record including a misdemeanor DUI conviction, planning on traveling internationally is encouraged to inquire carefully with the countries they plan to visit before setting off on their travels to ensure they will not face problems during travel. Even if travelers aren’t denied entrance, being held up with immigration officer could be embarrassing and time consuming. For more information, contact U.S. Passports and International Travel.