Uncapping the U Nonimmigrant Visa would be a great deal for America
In 2000, Congress created the U Nonimmigrant Visa program as a means to provide legal status to victims of certain crimes, such as assault, who cooperate with law enforcement in the capture and prosecution of criminals. The program works to incentivize undocumented immigrant victims to come forward in order to help put criminals behind bars. As Congress debates the immigration issue, it’s time to update this program by eliminating the annual U Visa cap of 10,000.
Currently, there are over 110,000 pending U Visa applications, and because the annual cap is 10,000, that means at least an 11-year wait for new applicants. There have been attempts to raise the cap: when the “gang of eight” bipartisan Senators attempted to generate a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013 under President Obama, they sought to increase it to 18,000. That would cut the current wait nearly in half, but momentum for the bill didn’t materialize.
Executive Director at the Migrant Center for Human Rights Sara Ramey suggests a bolder idea: eliminating the cap altogether. This would achieve several goals at once: Thousands of undocumented immigrants, most of whom have lives and strong ties in their communities, would gain legal status and perhaps a path to citizenship. Community safety would improve as immigrants come out of the shadow to aid law enforcement officers seek justice. And while, statically speaking, crime in immigrant-heavy areas is generally lower than the national average, the Trump administration could still tout a reduction in crime in those areas.
There are basic ethical reasons to remove the cap as well. It means removing a major vulnerability from the immigrant community if victims feel safe and comfortable coming forward to report criminals. In addition, U Visa applicants are often co- or sole providers in their home, many with U.S.-citizen children. The long processing times delay them in gaining employment authorization, denying them the dignity of work and supporting a family. USCIS does current grant “deferred action” and work authorization to some applicants who make the waitlist, but “there’s close to a two year wait” to be added.
President Trump often complains about government inefficiency, and this is a chance to apply a common-sense solution, if only the administration would drop its hardline anti-immigrant stance. It would be a win-win to eliminate the U Visa cap because more crimes would be reported, leading to more criminals being apprehended and even deported, benefiting both law enforcement and the immigrant community.
To read Sarah Ramey’s argument in its entirety, please see: http://thehill.com/opinion/immigration/373808-eliminating-the-u-visa-cap-will-help-catch-criminals