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.

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.

Do Sex Crimes Receive Too Harsh of Punishments in Utah?

Utah is known for being too tough on many crimes such as drugs, yet few question whether or not other offenses such as sex crimes are receiving harsh punishments as well.

Leniency for some, not for others

Photo by: eflon

Photo by: eflon

Utah is making strides to reduce the penalties for offenses such as drug possession, yet those arrested for sex crimes can usually expect to receive exceptionally harsh punishments with no public outcry for leniency. Sex offenders receive no mercy in court, and everyone seems happy to lock them up and throw away the key. Although sex crimes are very serious charges and should carry punishments, there are some things to consider before locking offenders away for life.

Prison population

One of the reasons House Bill 348 was signed was to help decrease the prison population by reducing the number of drug offenders taking up room. While those arrested for drug crimes have faced unfair punishments, the prison population won’t necessarily decrease with the drug offenders gone. Instead the prisons will be filled to capacity with those serving lengthy sentences for murder or sex crimes. According to the Utah Department of Corrections (UDC), “Nearly one-third of the inmates in Utah’s prison system are serving time for a sexual offense.” This number of sex offenders in prison has been increasing and will continue to do so until the prisons are at full capacity; then what?

Mandatory prison sentences for sex crimes

Photo by: Chris Potter

Photo by: Chris Potter

While everyone else is getting out early or having reduced sentences to start, those in prison for sex crimes will be there for an extended length of time. A person with no previous criminal record that is convicted of a sex crime will spend anywhere from 5 years to life in prison. Utah Code 76-3-406 adds regarding those charged with sex crimes ranging from aggravated sexual assault to rape, “probation shall not be granted, the execution or imposition of sentence shall not be suspended, the court shall not enter a judgment for a lower category of offense, and hospitalization shall not be ordered, the effect of which would in any way shorten the prison sentence for any person who commits a capital felony or a first degree felony [of various sex crimes]”. In other words, they can go to prison and stay there.

Lack of treatment programs

While many sex offenders wait out their lengthy prison sentences, most will not be able to partake in the much needed Sex Offender Treatment Program to help them “control urges and impulses” as the UDC aims to do to help rehabilitate them. While the State of Utah will dish out millions to house inmates imprisoned for sex crimes, they are not increasing funding for the sex offender programs that will help treat these inmates by giving them the therapeutic and behavioral support they need. In fact:

• According to a briefing by the Utah State Legislature in 2011, “the last new funding for prison sex offender treatment programming was in 1996” twenty years ago!

• At that time of that briefing, the Utah State legislature stated “the department of corrections [was] funded for approximately 250 sex offender treatment slots” but had nearly 2,000 offenders who were incarcerated for sex crimes. The number of sex offenders has increased in five years, with treatment remaining stagnant.

• While not outwardly stating so, sex offender treatment may in fact be decreasing or as UDC called “a demand coupled with a lack of resources”. In October of 2015, the Special Services Dormitory which housed inmates who were “awaiting or undergoing sex offender treatment” was closed because of staffing issues. The inmates were then absorbed back into the general inmate population with a lower chance of receiving treatment.

The one-third of Utah’s prison population that consists of those convicted of sex crimes are not getting the help they need to be rehabilitated when their far distant release date nears. They are practically set up to fail.

Low recidivism rate

Arrested for Sex Crimes

Photo by: Office of Public Affairs

Even with the odds against them, those mostly first time offenders convicted of sex crimes have a surprisingly low recidivism rate. The Sex Offender Treatment Report 2010 stated that 43% of sex offender parolees returned to jail within a year. 87% of those returning to jail did so because of “technical violations of the conditions of parole, not new criminal behavior.” Only 12.3% returned for committing another crime. While the recidivism rate for sex offenders is already low, graduation from a treatment program dropped that recidivism rate even lower. Those that graduation from a Sex Offender Treatment Program only had a recidivism rate of 19.5%; 26% lower than those who didn’t complete treatment. The majority of those returning were also rearrested for simple technical violations of their parole.

Treatment and parole most effective

While many Utah residents wish to see those convicted of sex crimes spend a lifetime in jail, there are other options such as treatment and parole that are proven to be more effective. By reducing penalties and sentencing while in turn increasing funding for the Sex Offender Treatment Program, taxpayers will end up saving millions in the long run and Utah prisons will not become overrun by those serving life sentences for first time sex crimes.