President Barack Obama’s deputies hugely expanded a little-known “crime visa” program to help roughly 140,000 illegal aliens obtain amnesty and U.S. citizenship.
The U visa program was created by the Battered Immigrant Women Protection Act within the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. It offers visas and eventually citizenship to illegal aliens who testify in court against criminals.
Supposedly, the program was limited to 10,000 visas per year. But Obama’s lax regulations encouraged a huge number of illegals to file for U visas — and also allowed many illegals to get residency and work permits years before they receive the actual U visa.
This year, Democratic officials are still trying to use the “U visa” program to help illegal aliens dodge President Donald Trump’s policy of enforcing immigration law. For example, a Texas sheriff is encouraging illegals in Travis County to file for U visas so judges can block their enforced return home.
One applicant for the U visa is Demecio Flores-Martinez, 38, a 1995 illegal immigrant now in process for repatriation to his Mexican homeland. According to his May 15 “Motion to Stay” to a judge in Michigan, Flores-Martinez argues he should be given a U visa because:
On July 2, 2014, Mr. Flores-Martinez became eligible for a U-Visa as he fell victim to a spiked drink otherwise known as “being roofied”, kidnapping outside a known gay club in Detroit by the name of Gigi’s, battery using a gun, and assault with a deadly weapon.
A police report about the incident included this line: “crew obs[erved] no blood, shell casing and no evidence of any kind at this time in the area.”
According to a legal claim to the district court in the eastern district of Michigan, also made May 15 and titled “Petition for writ of habeas corpus and review of enforcement of removal order.”
1. Petitioner, Demecio Flores-Martinez, hereby petitions this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 to issue a writ of habeas corpus to review the lawfulness of the enforcement of a removal order …
33. Petitioner is entitled to the relief of U-Visa and is currently actively pursuing that option by submitting his application for relief with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Petitioner’s friend, and other victim on the same incident, has filed his U-Visa Application and is currently awaiting his approval.
So far, the judge has ordered the Department of Homeland Security to delay repatriation pending further legal arguments in June.
The U visa was created in 2000 to provide visas for up 10,000 witnesses to crimes each year. But that 10,000 visa-a-year cap was blown wide open by numerous exceptions and expansions because the law gave the residents’ agency officials much authority over how the program is run.
In 2009, 10,937 people applied for the visa. Six years later, 60,710 people applied, according to data provided by DHS to the Immigration Law Reform Institute.
In Obama’s first term, officials approved 63,000 visa requests. In his second four-year term, officials approved 78,637 U visas. That is a total of 141,921 visas — or 62,000 above the apparent level of 10,000 per year.
The formal rejection rate was low — averaging only 9 percent during Obama’s second term — although many applications remain undecided.
People who get the U visas can apply after several years for green cards, which is the next step towards citizenship. Once they become citizens, they can petition to bring in siblings and their children, as well as their parents, further boosting the U visa inflow. In 2015, Obama’s officials at DHS provided 14,112 green cards to U visa recipients.
The program expanded far beyond the initial description for several reasons.
Firstly, each applicant gets to include their spouse and minor dependents and even parents on their visa application — and those extra U visas don’t count against the annual cap of 10,000 visas.
If the original witness is approved for a basic U visa, dubbed the U-1 visa, the witnesses’ spouse can get a U-2 visa, the children can get U-3 visas and in the case of a witness under age 18, the parents can get U-4 visas. Moreover, once the visa recipients become a citizen, he or she can petition to bring in their siblings via chain migration rules. So the annual cap of 10,000 U-1 visas actually means far more than 10,000 immigrants.
Secondly, the claimed original goal was to encourage courtroom testimony by illegal aliens — especially battered women — who are afraid of being deported if they volunteered to appear in court. “The purpose of this section is to create a new nonimmigrant visa classification that will strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to detect, investigate, and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens, and other crimes … against aliens, while offering protection to victims of such offenses in keeping with the humanitarian interest of the United States,” says the legislation. But the law allowed agency officials enough leeway to greatly expand the program.
For example, officials have gradually expanded the list of qualifying crimes, according to a DHS guide to the visa:
In 2015, Obama officials expanded the program to allow illegal-alien workers to get visas if they provide testimony in civil lawsuits against employers, and the investigations of extortion, forced labor, and fraud in foreign labor contracting. This policy flipped the underlying purpose of immigration law — the exclusion of illegals from the labor market — into a mechanism where the hiring of illegals become a mechanism to grant them citizenship.
That’s a problem for companies which have illegal aliens in their workforce. In 2011, for example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claimed Mississippi-based Koch Foods “subjected a class of female Hispanic employees in its Morton, Miss., poultry processing plant to various forms of sex-based harassment, including sexual assaults over several years … [and discriminated] against a class of male Hispanic employees because of their national origin.” In turn, the company argued in 2015 that the EEOC’s case relied on workers who hoped to get U visas by testifying against the company. “An ‘opportunity’ arose for the individual plaintiffs and other claimants in this case to obtain immigration benefits providing invaluable security for them and their families that were attainable through allegations of abuse,” the company’s lawyers argued.
Thirdly, the program has grown because Obama’s agencies allow a very large number of people to apply for the benefit — and they provide each applicant most of the benefits of a visa, such as a temporary residency and work permits.
In 2011, Obama’s deputies began minimizing enforcement of immigration laws, via the so-called “Morton memos,” which also pushed officials to loosen U visa rules. For example, the Obama administration in 2016 allowed for the foreigners outside the United States who apply for the visa to live and work in the United States while they waited for the visas. Roughly 9,000 people outside the United States — including 7,000 children — have received U visas from U.S. embassies during the Obama administration.
The various expansions converted U visas a very powerful tool for immigration lawyers. An Obama-era Department of Justice guidebook, titled “U Status: A Guide for Crime Victims,” described their power:
the perpetrator of the crime does not have to have been arrested or convicted. It doesn’t matter if the prosecutor decided not to try the case – the most important thing is that you cooperated with the investigation … A U status grant can waive almost any ground of inadmissibility except for those who are Nazis or perpetrators of genocide, torture, or extrajudicial killing. .. Because certain prior immigration violations, criminal conduct or convictions, and diseases or mental health issues may make you inadmissible, you might need to submit one extra form along with your U status application to request that these problems be waived … Although the judge cannot grant your U status application, he or she may be willing to grant you continuance while it is pending or reconsider her bond decision. Also, ICE might consider releasing you from detention, dismissing your case, or administratively closing the proceedings until USCIS makes decision on your U application.
“The federal government’s threshold is low — they don’t care that victim gets justice in court, they only care that the victim was willing to help the prosecution … whether it was [as a] witness, or just being part of the plea agreement,” said Dearborn lawyer Shahad J. Atiya. “They don’t care about the end of the case, they only care if you’re available” to testify, she said.
GOP leaders say Obama’s deputies went beyond the law:
U visas are capped at 10,000 annually for principal applicants. However, under an apparently unlawful USCIS policy, cases that would have otherwise been approved in the absence of the cap may receive “conditional approval” and a work authorization until U visas become available the following year.
In some cases, despite no statutory authorization, the application itself may serve to halt deportation until it is adjudicated.
Petitioners in foreign countries who apply for a U visa after the cap is exceeded, until now, remained abroad until their application was fully adjudicated. However, in August, USCIS announced its intent to implement a new “parole policy” under which eligible U visa petitioners who live abroad, along with their derivatives, can apply for parole and be admitted to the U.S. prior to adjudication. Such a policy has the potential to allow thousands of individuals the ability to wait for their adjudication results in the United States, during which time they could be granted work authorization and additional benefits.
Fourthly, some state and local officials promote the use of the U visa. For example, the Democratic mayor of New York, and the Democratic governor of California, and Arizona have directed police officials to process paperwork rapidly for U visas. In California, for example, police officials must finish their paperwork in 14 days when an illegal is slated for repatriations by DHS.
That welcome policy is being copied by local officials, including the Texas sheriff is encouraging illegals in Travis County. “I think that just with the political climate in general across the U.S. that we have victims not reporting crime and that’s a concern for us. I mean, we care about all of the victims regardless of immigration status,” Captain Craig Smith of the Travis County Sheriff’s Office told Fox 7 News. “We want to make sure that we have an avenue to ensure them they’re safe to come and speak with us.”
Labor unions are also trying to use the U visa program to unionize workplaces.
GOP leaders highlight concerns that crooks are also gaming the U visa program. A December 2016 letter from the House and Senate judiciary committees, Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, said:
Recent cases have highlighted how the program is being exploited through falsified police reports and bribes to secure U visas allowing foreign nationals to avoid deportation. According to whistleblowers, such illicit activity to secure U visas is common.
In October, a lawyer, a cop and several foreigners pled guilty to charges faked U Visa applications to help win at least temporary legal status.
These lax rules have also encouraged lawyers to use the U visa as a get-out-of-jail card for clients about to be deported, and also to promote the U visa as a service for illegal immigrants.
For example, Flores-Martinez is being held by DHS, which almost repatriated him a few weeks ago. His lawyer quizzed him about his past and found the prior claimed street robbery which could get him a U visa.
Even if Flores-Martinez is deported, he will be able to return to the United States if the U visa application is approved, his Dearborn lawyer, Shahad Atiya, told Breitbart News. “Yes, in fact, if you are deported, you are able to come [back] … that is the only [visa] release that does that,” she said.
The visa application also helps any “derivative,” or spouse and child, she said. Another of her clients “was held up [in a robbery] … all of her children will be able [to stay] if she is approved,” she added.
A third client, she said, tried to give police a statement after a crime, but her name was not recorded by the police officer. That is a problem because the U visa application needs a statement from the police about the applicant’s willingness to testify in a trial. “The police report does say there was a language barrier — maybe I could argue they could not properly communicate with my client, and maybe I could add her name” to the report if the police officer agrees, she said. But, she added, “it is very difficult to go back” to fix incomplete police records.
Costs and Benefits
The law does not ask officials to consider the cost to Americans of providing lifetime citizenship benefits to unskilled foreign migrants. Those costs are mostly paid by state and local taxpayers, and also by Americans kids who lose educational opportunities as ore resources are diverted to support unskilled migrants. Already, first-generation immigrants cost state and local taxpayers $57 billion more than they contribute in taxes, according to a September 2016 report by the National Academies of Sciences.
Immigration lawyers and Democrats say the U visas are needed to encourage illegal aliens to report crimes and to testify in trials. But their campaign to extend American law to illegals contradicts the purpose of immigration law, which is to exclude illegal immigrants and to welcome legal immigrants.
Moreover, according to Obama’s DHS, there are several other visa programs which allow illegals to safely testify in American courts. According to the DHS guide to the U visa program, “Federal law provides additional options to assist law enforcement with providing immigration status to victims and witnesses of crime that may or may not be eligible for the U visa,” including:
The T nonimmigrant status (or T visa) provides immigration protection to victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons who comply with reasonable requests for assistance from law enforcement …
VAWA Recognizing that immigrant victims of domestic violence may remain in an abusive relationship because his or her immigration status is often tied to the abuser, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994 created a self-petitioning process that removes control from the abuser and allows the victim to submit his or her own petition for permanent residence without the abuser’s knowledge or consent…
Continued Presence (CP) is a temporary immigration status provided to individuals identified by law enforcement as victims of human trafficking who are potential witnesses in an investigation or prosecution …
Significant Public Benefit Parole (SPBP) may be utilized to bring an individual to serve as a witness, defendant, or cooperating source, and if necessary in extremely limited cases, the individual’s immediate family members, into the United States for up to one year. It must be emphasized that SPBP will only be granted for the minimum period of time required to accomplish the requested purpose, e.g., if a trial is 3 months long, parole will be granted for 3 months …
Deferred Action (DA) is a discretionary decision-making authority that allows DHS to determine which cases merit the commitment of limited resources [but] does not provide a pathway to permanent residency.
The oversight of the U visa program needs reform, say advocates of pro-American immigration policies.
“The U visa was yet another example of Obama expanding sympathy-laden programs without considering the implications for working Americans and agency oversight capabilities,” said Dale Wilcox, the executive director and general counsel at the Immigration Law Reform Institute. “The ease of fabricating a crime coupled with the bounty of US wage-rates and welfare benefits already made the program wide open for fraud,” he said. “Obama’s expansions made it even easier.”