Five Steps to a Better U: Improving the Crime-Fighting Visa
33 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2018 Last revised: 24 Mar 2018
Date Written: October 27, 2017
Congress created the U nonimmigrant status to assist noncitizen victims of serious crime and to encourage them to assist law enforcement in the investigation of that crime. Despite these laudable goals, the process has been flawed since the outset. U visas were capped at 10,000 per year, eventually precipitating a multi-year backlog that diminishes the incentive to report crime for persons who fear deportation. Of particular importance, the willingness of law enforcement officers to provide a certification of helpfulness -- a mandatory component of an application for U status -- varies tremendously across agencies. Eligibility for U status is thus a matter of "geographic roulette." New policies implemented under the Trump Administration threaten this already fraught scheme. In particular, the Department of Homeland Security has reinvigorated cooperative enforcement agreements with state and local police and expanded removal priorities to include those merely charged or suspected of criminal activity. These developments mean that undocumented victims of serious crime expose themselves to significant risk of deportation when they involve the police. When crime is unreported, perpetrators may remain at large, free to offend again. Particularly in domestic violence situations, survivors and their families remain vulnerable to further harm. Ironically, these results conflict with another stated initiative of the Trump Administration: fighting crime. This symposium essay offers five concrete reforms that would ameliorate the problems hampering the effectiveness of the U visa.
Keywords: U status, mass deportation, federalism, discretion, sanctuaries, cooperative enforcement, politics, local government, prosecution, immigrants, crimmigration, executive orders, detainers, 287(g)
JEL Classification: K14, K23, K33, K40, K41, K42, D73, J61, F22, L22
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation