Miss. Case Shows the Complications of Victim-Visas

By David North on December 31, 2015

The annual ceiling for crime victim (U) visas is 10,000, and USCIS announced this week that the limit has been reached for FY 2016. This does not mean that any crime victims will be denied visas – or caused to leave the country – it just means that from now on this year's issuances will be delayed until October 1, 2016, when the new fiscal year begins.

The announcement reminded me, as we have pointed out in the past, that about one of every six legal immigrants is admitted (or adjusted) because the nation regards that person as a victim of some kind; these include, on the international scene, refugees and asylees and, on the national scene, victims of crimes, abused spouses, and – in a recent case of interest, discussed below – perhaps abused workers.

We admit these alien victims (or allow them to stay if they're already here) because we feel sorry for them, not because of the talents or money they may bring to the country, or because they are related to someone in the U.S. Some of them, of course, will be valuable additions to our population, but that's just a happy accident.

This brings up what I think is an undiscussed irony in the immigration field. When the nation admits refugees or asylees it rules, in effect, against some abuser or abusers or abusing system; the abusing individual (the villain if you will) is overseas. The behavior of the Communist bosses in North Korea, for example, or of the gangs in Somalia or the homophobic regime in Saudi Arabia are judged in absentia, if you will, and even if they had a reasonable argument, they are never heard in American courts.

On the other hand, when the U-visa is used, for those arguing that they are crime victims, the alleged bad person is often in the United States, and sometimes, but only sometimes, gets an opportunity to be heard in our courts. We have pointed out in the past there are at least a few cases of U.S. citizens, usually men, being hornswoggled into a marriage by an alien, who once she gets here and marries him, dumps him, saying that he has been abusing her, and then gets a green card as an abused spouse. It is rare, in these circumstances, that the duped citizen gets to be heard as my colleague Dan Cadman has noted earlier.

The U-visa gives the abused alien – assuming that the alien has cooperated with law enforcement officials – a legal nonimmigrant status that can be converted a little later to a green card. It also allows the spouses, parents, and children, and for younger victims, siblings, of the abused alien to become legal residents, too. It is a kind of specialized amnesty for illegal aliens with an annual ceiling (for victims) of 10,000 with no limit on the number of the victims' relatives. The Obama administration has gone to some lengths to expand this program.

It is within this context that I encountered the other day the long, drawn-out case of Maria Cazorla v. Koch Foods of Mississippi, which is now before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Cazorla, who apparently is an illegal alien, had worked for years in a chicken slaughterhouse in the small town of Morton, Miss. She said that a foreman had insulted, threatened, and otherwise abused her, and discriminated against her so and she and a number of colleagues (all bearing Hispanic names) have sued their employer for damages. This Koch family (pronounced "cook") is unrelated to the Koch ("coke") brothers who are heavily involved in national politics.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission joined her suit in federal district court in Mississippi.

Now my innate bias – perhaps based on an early reading the Upton Sinclair's The Jungle – is not on the side of the owners of meatpacking plants, but in this case the corporation may be making an interesting point. Their lawyers are saying, in effect, that the firm is the victim of workers falsely claiming to be victims in the hopes of receiving U visas, and that a reason – if not the reason – for the lawsuit is that the workers want to be legalized via these visas.

I am not taking sides in a complex case that gathered more than 500 filings in the PACER system at the district court level, even before it got to the circuit court. What I am saying is that this is an instance in which a company is arguing that one of the reasons they are in court is because, if the company loses, that would enhance the chances of their alien workers and ex-workers getting U visas.

The specific issue before the circuit court is this: should the U-visa files of the workers be placed on the public record? Apparently the district court judge viewed the files in camera but did not show them to the lawyers for Koch Foods; the latter have asked the Circuit Court to reverse the lower court's decision not to share the U-visa information.

In a footnote to a brief, the company's lawyers, without bringing up the words "chain migration" describe how the U-visas can be used to that end:

Several who were deposed [i.e., the plaintiffs] recently married, likely allowing them to spread the benefits to others. For example, one married his girlfriend of 11 years and mother of his two children in January 2013, shortly after signing his participation agreement with EEOC ... Maria Cazorla and Jose Toledo married in 2008 after living together for five years, shortly after she assisted ICE in an undercover investigation of Koch ... Another married her boyfriend of three years ... just months after signing a participation agreement with EEOC. (Footnote 13, Cross Appellants' Brief filed December 22, 2015 in the PACER file located here.)

If the Fifth Circuit rules for Koch Foods on this point – making the U-visa files public – it might make for some interesting (if specialized) reading.