Endorsing Organizations: National Network to End Domestic Violence, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Southern Poverty Law Center, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Interfaith
Worker Justice, National Justice for Our Neighbors, Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action (IAF – Central California), Friends Committee on National Legislation, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service,
Tahirih Justice Center, ASISTA, Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network, National Domestic Violence Hotline, Her Justice, Futures Without Violence, National Immigration Law Center, Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC)
We write to invite you to become an original co-sponsor of the Immigrant Victim Protection Act. This legislation would eliminate the arbitrary U (crime victim) Visa cap of 10,000 per year, institute a statutory timeline for applicants to receive much-needed
work authorization for U Visas and T (trafficking) Visas, and prohibit U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from targeting undocumented immigrants before they can access immigration protections under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) or the Trafficking
Victims Protection Act (TVPA). With ICE expected to increase enforcement, it is more important than ever to provide much-needed protections to this vulnerable population.
In 2000, Congress created the bipartisan U Visa and T Visa through the TVPA, recognizing that such visas were necessary to “strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to detect, investigate, and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault,
trafficking…and other crimes…committed against [immigrants], while offering protection to victims of such offenses in keeping with the humanitarian interests of the United States.” These
powerful tools have helped law enforcement and prosecutors build necessary trust with members of the undocumented community. When relations between law enforcement and immigrant communities are strengthened, immigrants feel secure to come out of the shadows
to provide testimony to help prosecute perpetrators of crimes and resolve countless criminal investigations.
Under current law, the U Visa program has an annual statutory cap of 10,000, but the demand for these critical visas have dramatically outpaced the supply. As of the second quarter of FY 2018 there are over 110,000 principal applications pending, and this
number is only expected to grow. According to U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency is adjudicating U Visa petitions that were filed
on or before August 25, 2014, leaving a three-year backlog between when an application is initially adjudicated and when an immigrant is placed on the U Visa waitlist.
This serious delay compromises the ability of law enforcement to use this critical tool, since victims and witnesses are still at risk for removal while criminal cases are pending. In addition, it leaves victims and witnesses who have proactively cooperated
with law enforcement in an investigation or prosecution of serious crimes vulnerable to deportation while their applications are pending.
Eliminating the existing statutory cap will allow USCIS to reduce the U Visa backlog and enable law enforcement to use the U Visa program as effectively as possible. Additionally, by providing removal protection to victims eligible for VAWA immigration relief,
U Visas, and T Visas, victims and witnesses of violent or serious crimes will come out of the shadows because they will know that they will be protected when contacting the police.