Crime Victims Still Await U Visa Regulations
On August 5, 2002 The Houston Chronicle published a heart-rending article about a young woman from El Salvador who had been shot and badly wounded by the trafficker who brought her to the United States. She testified against the trafficker who shot her, and he is now serving a sentence.
She is just the kind of person Congress intended to help with the U visa created by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (the Act). But nearly two years have gone by, and the INS has not yet issued U visa regulations. This immigrant crime victim, and others like her, are in legal "limbo" as a result of the inaction of the INS.
Section 1513(b) of the Act (see INA Section 101(a)(U)) provides that aliens who cooperate with law enforcement authorities will be eligible for the U visa, if they have "suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity" described in "clause iii." That clause includes "trafficking," "being held hostage" and "felonious assault," all of which were involved in this case.
Once U visa regulations are issued, there may be up to 10,000 principal nonimmigrants in that status each year (twice the number of T nonimmigrants). After three years of continuous residence in U status, the nonimmigrants may apply for adjustment of status, and will qualify if humanitarian grounds, family unity, or public interest justify their continued presence.
The circumstances of the attack in this case are horrendous. According to the article, the trafficker staged a "drinking party with his female clients" (or rather victims). He brandished a gun, and the Salvadoran woman, Mayra Majano, asked him to put the gun away. He pushed the gun against her forehead and prepared to fire. She pulled away in time to save her life, but was badly wounded. Two years and many operations later, she cannot use her left hand and experiences numbness in her legs: "I don't have any money, or any way to survive. I can't work any place--it is hard to find a job when you only have one hand." To make matters worse, she had to pledge her mother's house in El Salvador to the traffickers, and fears that her mother will lose the house and her two young sons will be "in the streets" if she cannot pay the traffickers.
The Texas Crime Victims Compensation Program deserves credit for having provided Ms. Majano with $25,000 for claims that she submitted, and may give more. But Ms Majano says that the money went for hospital bills, and there was virtually none for food and rent.
The fact that the INS finally issued the T visa and regulations (1/31/02) for victims of trafficking is very positive. But it is lamentable that it has not yet issued the U visa and regulations for victims of violent crimes like Mayra Majano. As a Salvadoran, Ms. Majano is fortunate in that she qualifies for TPS, and that eligibility runs until 9/9/03. We have to hope that she is able to survive economically until then, and that U visa regulations are issued without further delay.
When the regulations are issued, it is vital that they recognize the financial need of crime victims like Ms. Majano. There is no way that she could meet the requirements of the T visa, which may be thought of as an analog to the U visa. The T visa application requires a fee of $200, plus $50 for fingerprints, and $120 for the Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization. Ms. Majano could not afford that, and what will become of such impecunious victims of crime?
The INS now has the opportunity to do the right thing: to comply with legislative intent, and to help vulnerable immigrants who have risked a great deal to help law enforcement put violent criminals behind bars. The essential step to take is promptly to issue regulations for the U visa.
About The Author
Carl R. Baldwin graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1980, and became a member of the New York State Bar a year later. He worked for three years with the New York City Law Department, and then entered solo practice in immigration law, which he has continued to the present. His work with clients has included asylum applications, deportation defense, visa processing, adjustment of status, and naturalization. He has also worked to implement special laws, such as the 1986 "amnesty" (The Immigration Reform and Control Act), and the 1998 Haitian reform act (The Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act). Mr. Baldwin is the author of Immigration News Monthly. He can be reached by e-mail at Carl.Baldwin@worldnet.att.net.
He has written a book on immigration law, called "Immigration Questions and Answers," Allworth Press, 2002. The book, which contains essential background information about how the immigration law works, can be ordered online from Allsworth Press at: www.allworth.com/Pages/SC_BL.htm.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.