Crime happens in the United States to people from all over the world. The U.S. immigration system, oddly in my view, rewards its victims with green cards through U visas.
Why is it that while the four countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, which constitute only 2 percent of the world's population and provided us with 20 percent of our legal immigrants in 2019, for example, gave us 86.6 percent of our green-card-rewarded crime victims in the years 2012-2018? This is through the U visa program.
Mind you, the crime involved routinely occurs in the United States and one needs documentation from a U.S. law enforcement agency to claim this status, so the huge Hispanic involvement in this program does not directly relate to the admittedly high crime rates in those four countries. The crimes that create the green cards happen here. And I suspect that many of these are Hispanic-on-Hispanic crimes.
One might conclude that Mexican nationals and those from the Northern Triangle of Central America are more likely to be crime victims (and know criminals) than other migrants. Maybe, but my sense is that one set of illegal migrants (and their advocates and their lawyers) have found a neat way to produce a specialized amnesty for themselves, a method not (or not yet) well-known to other ethnic groups. It's true that nationals of those four countries constitute the majority of the illegal population, but the disproportion is still striking.
About a generation ago I noticed something similar happening with migration from Turkey. Turkey had a larger proportion of elderly emigrants coming to the U.S. than just about any other nation. Poking a little further, I found that some U.S.-based Turks were bringing the old folks in and putting them immediately on the welfare rolls. The loophole, after the usual delay, was closed, and the average age level of Turkish migrants returned to the norm.
There's a good reason to write about U visas now because the Biden administration's omnibus immigration proposal, which is scheduled to be considered next week by the House of Representatives, calls for a tripling of the annual numerical limit for such visas from 10,000 to 30,000.
I feel sorry for someone who has been, for example, mugged (as I was twice, long ago in the District of Columbia, when I was foolishly going for evening strolls) but there is no reason to reward the victim with a path toward citizenship. As a matter of fact, a new document to me, "U Visa Filing Trends", a USCIS publication, indicates that these visas are also issued to two different kinds of non-victims — relatives of victims and, wait for this: "1.4% were bystanders to the QCA" with the initials standing for Qualifying Criminal Activity. That means that we have handed out green cards at the rate of 140 a year to those who simply witnessed a crime.
This is a foolish way to distribute green cards, and yet it may be about to triple in size. What is worse, there was, in 2019, a backlog of 142,000 of these applications awaiting USCIS decisions. And, even in the Trump years, the approval rate was about 85 percent, indicating a non-thorough screening of these applications.
The beneficiaries of the U visa are not to be confused with the world's best and brightest, or the world's most innocent. Another recent USCIS publication "U Visa Demographics" describes the beneficiaries (the new green card holder) this way:
- USCIS estimates about 13% of principal petitioners and 8% of derivatives were in removal proceedings at the time of filing. Twenty two percent of principal petitioners and 11% of derivatives were previously in removal, exclusion, or deportation proceedings.
- The majority of principal petitioners (79%) and derivatives [i.e., relatives] (65%) reported that they did not have a lawful immigration status at the time of filing.
. . .
- Eighty percent of principal petitions included an application requesting that USCIS waive applicable inadmissibility grounds as initial evidence, as instructed under current regulation.
- Nearly 10% of approved principal petitioners required a waiver for fraud or willful misrepresentation.
In other words, only a small minority of those applying were in legal status at the time of application. This is not a random sample of aliens here legally, as students or tourists, who became crime victims. The beneficiaries are, though these reports do not mention it, largely law-breakers who have police-recorded contacts with other law-breakers.
For a more detailed description and analysis of the U Visa program, see this comprehensive report by my colleague Jessica Vaughan.
"U Visa Demographics" is a report in the once-over lightly mode, missing many valuable variables that were crying to be reported, as we will detail in a subsequent posting. I am glad that it was written, as a first step, but would call it loaded non-scholarship.[This post has been edited since publication.]