Saturday, October 20, 2007

Too Late?

About a month ago, I put up a post about U-Visas and the rules being formulated to execute a law passed in 2000. Apparently the rules are now in place, according to this AP article.

Illegal immigrants who are victims of violent crimes in the U.S. can now apply for special visas, seven years after Congress offered protection against deportation to those who cooperate with law enforcement agencies.

The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services is finally starting to process the visas this week, agency spokeswoman Marilu Cabrera said. ...

The 2000 Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act established the visa to encourage illegal immigrants to report crimes against them in return for the right to remain in the United States and eventually apply for permanent residency.

"This is an extremely important visa for individuals who have been victims of a crime," Cabrera said. "It is helpful for the government that we get information and cooperation so we can solve these crimes and prevent future crimes. For the person, it gives them peace of mind and an opportunity for a new life."

It is just that "opportunity for a new life" that has rankled some on the right.

The law authorized up to 10,000 "U" visas every year. The visas are good for up to four years, and visa holders who are in the U.S. continuously for three years can apply for permanent residency.

Critics are concerned about that provision.

"I would much prefer that we used it as a temporary visa, not an immigrant visa - something that allowed a person to testify but didn't give them the jackpot of a green card," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors limits on immigration.

Ed Hayes, the Kansas director of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, is more vigorous in his opposition to the program. He argues that there are many more American victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants than illegal immigrants who are crime victims.

"If they are here illegally, they broke the law," Hayes said. "If they become a victim, I am sorry for them. They should testify and then go home."

How pathetic is that? Local law enforcement officials often have a hard time putting together a case against a criminal because too many in the immigrant communities fear reprisals from both the criminals and the INS if they speak up. For that reason alone Mr. Hayes' comments are suspect. We don't know how many "illegal immigrants" have been victims or have been perpetrators because too many are afraid to speak up. Apparently that is a concept too complicated for Mr. Haynes to consider.

Unfortunately, the whole issue may be moot. The law was passed in 2000 and a lot has happened since then, including 9/11 and the GWOT with its emphasis on suspecting anyone of color. More recently, the White House has begun punishing Congress and the country for not giving him the bracero law he wanted by conducting massive ICE raids against "immigrants," legal or no. Don't think the immigrant communities haven't noticed.

Angela Ferguson, an immigration attorney in Kansas City, Mo., who has handled about 50 deferred action cases for "U" visas, doubts the program will change immigrants' attitudes toward police.

"I don't think it is going to help them trust law enforcement more," she said. "The fear is being stirred up everywhere - the fear of racial profiling, the rumors, the raids. I have people for the first time coming into my office and saying they are giving up and leaving."

That should make Mr. Haynes happy.



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