The Exact Opposite of What is Needed Now to Ensure Public Safety and Justice
Late on Friday afternoon, before the horror of the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings, the Trump administration issued a new immigration policy that makes it easier for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to deport crime victims and their families who work with law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of crimes and have applied for U visas to remain in the U.S. Since President Trump took office, his administration has doubled down on policies to limit federal funds to localities who refuse to undermine their own public safety in reckless pursuit of Trump immigration policies, notwithstanding a long list of courts rejecting this policy as unlawful. The policy issued Friday, as Americans were gathering with their families for the weekend, is yet another Trump administration immigration policy that would undermine the ability of local law enforcement to ensure public safety.
The announcement of this policy comes after more than a year of reports that the Trump administration has been ratcheting up deportation of crime victims without an official change in policy.
What is the U Visa and Its Purpose?
As stated on the U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Service (USCIS) website, the U visa was created by Congress as a tool for law enforcement:
The U nonimmigrant status (U visa) is set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. Congress created the U nonimmigrant visa with the passage [in 2000] of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act…[which] was intended to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens and other crimes, while also protecting victims of crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse due to the crime and are willing to help law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.
Furthermore, undocumented immigrants may not even apply for the U visa unless they have the express support of a law enforcement official and are clearly supporting that official in the prosecution of a crime. According to the USCIS website, the application must be accompanied by, “The Form I-918, Supplement B, [which] must be signed by an authorized official of the certifying law enforcement agency…and the official must confirm that you were helpful, and currently being helpful, or will likely be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the case.”
Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch and former USCIS Chief Counsel, said: “Increasing the threat of deportation for those who help law enforcement ensure public safety will inevitably lead to fewer people stepping forward to do so, thereby undermining public safety and the very reason the U visa was enacted by Congress almost 20 years ago. Once again, instead of siding with local law enforcement in their public safety mission, the Trump administration is prioritizing the deportation of more immigrants rather than supporting those who work to ensure America’s public safety. Some victims of this weekend’s El Paso shooting may very well be undocumented immigrants that prosecutors will need to testify against the shooter and put him behind bars for the horrific crimes he has allegedly committed. This new deportation policy for crime victims will not only fail to incentivize already traumatized victims to step forward, it may, in fact, deter them from doing so for fear of being re-traumatized through deportation.”
David Leopold, Counsel to DHS Watch, Chair of Immigration at Ulmer & Berne and former President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said: “Congress created the U visa to protect victims of crime and their families so they can work with law enforcement to bring criminals to justice without the threat of deportation. Not only does the U visa protect immigrant victims of crime, but it makes our communities safer by promoting public trust in law enforcement. In its zeal to rid the country of immigrants the Trump administration has effectively stripped the critical protections offered to immigrant victims of crime by the U visa, undermining community trust and public safety.”