Immigration question: I am a victim advocate at a Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault organization, and many of the resident victims I work with through our shelter are illegal/undocumented immigrants. They are often scared to go to the police & report crimes that have been committed against them because they are afraid of being deported. Is there any legal protection/rights [locally, statewide or civily] they have that I can advocate or inform them of to counter that fear if they need to report the crime to the police?
U visa - best protection one could have ever asked for. Gives more than many other forms of immigration benefit. Make sure, when you look into that person's facts that the underlying crime s/he is complaining about is covered. BTW to give legal advice, you need to be an attorney. This kind of an advice may constitute just that, so the best service you can do for them, is to refer them to some free legal clinic for victims of crimes. There are manifold clinics of the type all over the country.
U Visa for Immigrants who are Victims of Crimes
The purpose of the U visa is give victims of certain crimes temporary legal status and work eligibility in the United States for up to 4 years. The U visa is a nonimmigrant visa and only 10,000 U visas may be issued every fiscal year. Family members may also be included on the petition including spouses, children, unmarried sisters and brothers under 18, mothers, fathers, as well as stepparents and adoptive parents. An approved U visa petition will automatically grant the applicant work eligibility in the United States. An Employment Authorization Document will be included with all approved petitions, which can be shown to any employer to obtain a Social Security Number to start work legally. Currently all U visa applications are filed at the Vermont Service Center.
U Visa Application: An application for the U visa is filed with Form I-918, and there are different requirements that must be satisfied before an application can be submitted. The applicant must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse due to a criminal activity in at least one of the following categories: rape, torture, trafficking, incest, domestic violence, sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, prostitution, sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, hostage situations, peonage, false imprisonment, involuntary servitude, slave trade, kidnapping, abduction, unlawful criminal restraint, blackmail, extortion, manslaughter, murder, felonious assault, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, perjury or attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above mentioned crimes.
All petitions must include information on how the victim can assist government officials in learning more about the crime including investigation and/or prosecution of the individual(s) that committed the crime. The victim must also be willing to work with local law enforcement. The crime must have occurred in the United States or in a U.S. territory, or violated U.S. law.
A portion of Form I-918 must be certified by a Federal, State or local law enforcement agency, such as a prosecutor or a Federal or State judge in charge of the investigation in which the petitioner is the victim. Without this certification, the U visa petition cannot be submitted. However, a certification alone is not enough to establish eligibility as all facts around the petition will be considered. The certifying individual must be the head of the agency or a person designated to issue U nonimmigrant certifications. If at any point the victim stops to cooperate with law enforcement, the certification can be withdrawn.
There are several different avenues for immigrant victims of crime. These avenues include protections under:
Violence Against Women Act for victims who were subjected to abuse and/or extreme cruelty by a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident spouse, parent, or child.
U Visa/U Nonimmigrant Status is available for victims of certain crimes who have been helpful, are being helpful, or are likely to be helpful in the investigation and/or prosecution of the crime.
T Visa for victims of severe forms of sex and/or labor trafficking.
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for unaccompanied minors who have been abused, neglected, abandoned, etc. by one or both parents and it is in their best interest to remain in the United States.
Additionally, some of the victims who you work with may have alternative forms of relief separate from the crimes presented. I highly recommend working with local immigration legal service providers and immigration attorneys in the community to assess each individual case. I would be happy to talk with you more about resources in the metro Detroit community and opportunities for educating your staff.
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