Increasing Visas Available for Victims of Violent Crimes
What is a U visa?
The U visa program, created by the 2000 reauthorization of VAWA, allows law enforcement officials to request up to 10,000 visas each year for victims who are helping to investigate and prosecute serious crimes. In the past two years, that cap has been reached prior to the end of the fiscal year.
It especially helps to protect undocumented victims of violent crime and domestic violence who otherwise could be threatened by their abusive spouse or partner to be turned in to the immigration authorities. For this reason, many undocumented victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault do not report the crime or try to press charges against the abuser. The U visa provides them with a way to safely report the crime without fear of deportation.
Want to know more about the details of U-Visas: who is eligible, the types of crimes that qualify, how to apply, etc? Click here.
What is the provision in Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2011 (S. 1925) for the U Visa program?
The VAWA Reauthorization would increase the number of U visas available from the current level of 10,000 to 15,000. The legislation also adds stalking to the list of enumerated crimes for which a U visa is available. These improvements are not only essential to law enforcement efforts to protect immigrant victims, they are critical public safety tools necessary to remove violent offenders from the streets before they harm others.
Status of the VAWA
The Violence Against Women Act was last reauthorized in 2005. VAWA expired at the end of 2011 and therefore is in need of reauthorization once again.
The VAWA Reauthorization bill (S. 1925) was voted out of the Senate Judiciary committee in February. It is now supported by 59 co-sponsors, including four Republicans and two independents, in addition to all Democrats. It is expected to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote in the next few weeks.