By David Sperling and Erick Marroquin
“Hispanic panic” is putting an unnecessary damper on relations between law enforcement and the immigrant community.
The job of local police is to protect all residents, regardless of legal status. But the police cannot do their jobs effectively without community support.
There may in fact be good reasons for some undocumented immigrants to avoid police contact, especially if they have a criminal record, gang associations or a prior deportation order.
But undocumented immigrants with a clean record have a great incentive to cooperate with police if they have been crime victims.
Crime victims eligible for a “U Visa” can apply immediately for work authorization, and in three years for a Green Card. Minor children or the parents of crime victims are also eligible for U-Visa status.
While not all crimes qualify for a U Visa the most common include domestic violence, assault, robbery and sexual abuse. This is not an exhaustive list because there may be other crimes that may be “similar” to those crimes listed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS), the agency that adjudicates U Visas.
A critical requirement of the U Visa is that the victim cooperates with law enforcement, which includes the police department and District Attorney’s office. Typically, it is not enough to just file a police report. For example, if the District Attorney asks you to testify against your assailant then you must do so. In other cases, a police report may be enough to demonstrate that the victim has cooperated with law enforcement.
In order to apply for the U Visa program the District Attorney or police department must first sign a “certification” which states that the victim cooperated with law enforcement. The District Attorney or police department has the sole discretion to approve or deny the “certification.” A criminal conviction is not required.
It also does not matter when the crime occurred as long as the relevant authority signs the certification. As with other such remedies, it is imperative for potential beneficiaries to consult with a reputable immigration attorney or legal-service organization with experience in U Visas.