Immigrants Might Be Reporting Crimes Even Less Now. Here's Why

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in Washington, D.C. The Trump Administration has cracked down on immigration including undermining protections of the U nonimmigrant visa. 

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in Washington, D.C. The Trump Administration has cracked down on immigration including undermining protections of the U nonimmigrant visa.  SHUTTERSTOCK

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

COMMENTARY | The Trump administration’s decision to create doubt about the validity of U visas that protect crime survivors hurts already vulnerable immigrant populations.

The Trump administration showed its animus toward immigration of any kind in its recent short-lived plan to deny visas to foreign students if they were only enrolled in online classes. Although the Department of Homeland Security quickly rescinded its restrictions after widespread opposition from universities and states, the proposal echoed another outrageous recent immigration policy that has received far too little attention: the potential deportation of immigrants who are survivors of or witnesses to crimes.

Codified in the 2000 Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, the U nonimmigrant visa (U visa) protects “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.”

Prior to this law, non-citizens who were victims of crime reasonably feared that calling the police, cooperating with prosecutors and testifying in courts put them at heightened risk of deportation. Indeed, vulnerable populations like immigrants are often criminal targets precisely because they are less likely to report crimes and cooperate with law enforcement.

A directive the Trump administration issued last year now permits Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to deport U visa holders at their “discretion.” This should be of immediate concern for all law enforcement officers, prosecutors and communities. Absent the confidence to cooperate with law enforcement to report crimes without jeopardizing their status, non-citizen crime victims are all the more likely to be paralyzed with fear of action after their victimization.

Issuing U visas is a meticulous process. Applications are advanced by a prosecutor after careful analysis of the victim’s circumstances and the context of the pending case. A comprehensive request is then filed with thorough documentation proving that the applicant is indeed assisting in a criminal investigation. After such a request is filed, the petition is reviewed by ICE and ultimately an immigration judge. If granted, an applicant may legally remain in the United States for four years, after which he or she is eligible to apply for a green card to remain permanently. This thoughtful policy, enacted with bipartisan support in Congress, has provided thousands of people with a meaningful path to citizenship with roughly 80% of petitions on which a decision has been rendered approved between 2009 and 2018. The U visa program confers de facto residency on more people than the visa lottery or refugee program.

As a former long-time prosecutor, I know first-hand how devastating this policy can be in the pursuit of justice. Consider the 2007 case of Marco, who was the victim of a home invasion where four masked gunmen knocked down his apartment door. They proceeded to rob and torture him and two roommates—including inserting a wire hanger into one of their genitalia. Marco feared: first, for his life, and, second, deportation. Thankfully, federal law permitted the prosecutor on the case to assure Marco (whose real name I’m not using to protect his identity) that his cooperation with the investigation wouldn’t lead to his forced removal from the country he had called home for years. Working with his attorney, a victim advocate, and the prosecutor, Marco secured a U visa, resulting in him testifying before the grand jury. Eventually, the gunmen were convicted of their crimes. This result was an unquestionable positive for the community as a whole, including others in the city who might have been victims of these perpetrators.

Threatening to deport crime victims undermines the willingness of victims’ like Marco to be heard and to seek justice. This makes it all the more difficult to ensure that those who commit crimes don’t do so again and that survivors of crime are treated with dignity as valued members of their community.

In crippling our most vulnerable populations, the directive to deny U visas for crime victims jeopardizes everyone. All public servants, including professors, prosecutors, police and others must rally together to speak out against policies that decrease the safety and security of the communities we live in.

Lucy Lang is the director of the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and formerly a prosecutor in Manhattan. She teaches criminal justice in New York State prisons.

FEATURED CASE STUDIES
Powered By The Atlas
A large urban park creates a "connected" visitor experience with SMART.NODEs™
Sydney NSW, Australia
Community feedback increases 13x in Lancaster, PA with both offline and online engagement methods
Lancaster, PA, USA
Firefighters Use a Thermal Imaging Camera to Make a Lifesaving Grab
Palm Bay, FL, USA

NEXT STORY: Tear Gas Bans: A Policing Change Not Gaining Traction

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.