Biden Administration Gives Much Needed Legal Protection to Undocumented Crime Victims with a Sped-Up U-Visa Application Process

By Taher Kameli and Chathan Vemuri

 

In a move that is sure to be welcomed by many in both the immigrant community and law enforcement, the Biden administration has decided as of June 14, 2021 to speed up the process of granting U-Visas some undocumented immigrants who are victims of crime.[1] Under the new policy, the Biden administration will expand access to work permits and deportation relief to certain immigrant victims of crime with pending visa applications.[2]

 

Typically, the Government is only permitted to issue 10,000 U-Visas a year, with the rest of the U-Visa applicants being left on a waiting list backlog that can last for years.[3] The current backlog has grown to around 270,000 people.[4] But now, the US government can more quickly determine whether to grant four-year work permits to immigrants waiting U-Visa determinations.[5] This allows them to work and stay in the US while providing much needed assistance to law enforcement to investigate and prosecute serious crimes that they either survived or witnessed.[6] These will only be granted if the US government determines that the applications are in good faith and will require collecting data such as fingerprints and other biometric information in order to make this determination.[7] Furthermore, this pathway is only provided for particular crimes such as domestic violence, human trafficking, and other serious crimes.[8]

In addition to undocumented immigrants who are victims of the specified crimes, policy change is sure to be of immense help to law enforcement officials who have praised the U-Visa program in the past but have criticized the delay in granting protections to the undocumented immigrants that they work with during criminal investigations.[9] Having faster access to these protections will surely enable both as qualifying undocumented immigrants will not have to worry about staying silent to avoid deportation or face uncertainty as to their status and law enforcement can have more reliable information sharing with them in order to deter said crimes. Furthermore, the policy change of speeding up the issuing of U-Visas to qualifying undocumented immigrants signals another welcome break with Trump’s immigration policies that the Biden administration has committed itself to from day one.[10] The Trump administration, through one of its many controversial policies, made it much easier for US immigration authorities to deport U Visa applicants who were crime victims as well as their families.[11] By adopting this policy change, the Biden administration continues its promise to create a more inclusive, less punitive and friendly immigration system that does not go out of its way to keep people out.

 

Please contact the Law Offices of Kameli & Associates at info@kameli.com or please give us a call at (312)-233-1000 if you have any questions about the Biden administration’s new policy change or about the U-Visa in general.

 

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[1] Sullivan, Eileen, Biden Extends Temporary Work Permissions for Some Undocumented Immigrants Who are Victims of Crime, N.Y. Times (Jun. 14, 2021) available at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/14/us/politics/biden-immigration-victims-work-visa.html

[2] Hesson, Ted, U.S. to Expand Work Permits for Immigrants Who are Crime Victims, Reuters (Jun. 14, 2021, 12:11 PM CDT) available at https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-expand-work-permits-immigrants-who-are-crime-victims-2021-06-14/

[3] Sullivan, Eileen, Biden Extends Temporary Work Permissions for Some Undocumented Immigrants Who are Victims of Crime, N.Y. Times (Jun. 14, 2021) available at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/14/us/politics/biden-immigration-victims-work-visa.html

[4] Woodward, Alex, Biden to Speed Up Work Permits to Undocumented Immigrants Who Are Victims of Crime, Independent (Jun. 15, 2021, 15:59) available at https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/biden-immigration-visa-work-permit-b1866335.html

[5] Sullivan, Eileen, Biden Extends Temporary Work Permissions for Some Undocumented Immigrants Who are Victims of Crime, N.Y. Times (Jun. 14, 2021) available at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/14/us/politics/biden-immigration-victims-work-visa.html

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Hesson, Ted, U.S. to Expand Work Permits for Immigrants Who are Crime Victims, Reuters (Jun. 14, 2021, 12:11 PM CDT) available at https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-expand-work-permits-immigrants-who-are-crime-victims-2021-06-14/

[9] Sullivan, Eileen, Biden Extends Temporary Work Permissions for Some Undocumented Immigrants Who are Victims of Crime, N.Y. Times (Jun. 14, 2021) available at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/14/us/politics/biden-immigration-victims-work-visa.html

[10] Woodward, Alex, Biden to Speed Up Work Permits to Undocumented Immigrants Who Are Victims of Crime, Independent (Jun. 15, 2021, 15:59) available at https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/biden-immigration-visa-work-permit-b1866335.html

[11] New Trump Administration Policy Makes It Easier to Deport Victims of, and Witnesses to, Crimes, America’s Voice Education Fund (Aug. 6, 2019) available at https://americasvoice.org/press_releases/new-trump-administration-policy-makes-it-easier-to-deport-victims-of-and-witnesses-to-crimes/