This week’s episode of Parsing Immigration Policy highlights a visa program rife with fraud – the U visa program. Designed to assist law enforcement agencies in prosecuting criminals, the U visa is granted to victims of crime who lack immigration status and allows them to stay in the country (and work legally), and eventually get a green card and citizenship, ostensibly to aid in the prosecution of the crimes.
Is the U visa still serving its purpose? Jessica Vaughan, the Center’s Director of Policy Studies, and Jon Feere, the Center’s Director of Investigations and a former ICE Chief of Staff, share their knowledge of the program and its misuse.
Applicant numbers started growing in 2011 as more illegal aliens (and their attorneys) came to see the visa's usefulness as a pathway to remain legally in the United States. Plus, just filing an application protects illegal aliens from deportation and leads to a work permit, whether or not it is later approved. Thus, although Congress has capped the number of visas at 10,000 a year, there is a backlog of 315,000, as illegal aliens use a U visa application as a way to remain and work in the United States.
The benefits of the U visa have led to many instances of fraudulent reports of being victimized by crime. Vaughan and Feere explain that fraud in the program not only undermines the integrity of the immigration system, but also diverts law enforcement from investigating real crimes, making the communities where the fake claims are made less safe. The two also suggest a number of possible reforms to the program.
Mark Krikorian is the Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies.
Jon Feere is the Director of Investigations at the Center for Immigration Studies.
Jessica Vaughan is the Director of Policy Studies at the Center for Immigration Studies.
OIG report: USCIS’ U Visa Program Is Not Managed Effectively and Is Susceptible to Fraud
Texas Sheriff Hands Out U Visa Certifications to Aid Prosecution in Florida Migrant Transport Case
Visas for Victims: A Look at the U Visa Program
Crime Victim (U Visa) Backlogs Keep Climbing, Even as Petitions Fall
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Voices in the opening montage:
- Sen. Barack Obama at a 2005 press conference.
- Sen. John McCain in a 2010 election ad.
- President Lyndon Johnson, upon signing the 1965 Immigration Act.
- Booker T. Washington, reading in 1908 from his 1895 Atlanta Exposition speech.
- Laraine Newman as a "Conehead" on SNL in 1977.
- Hillary Clinton in a 2003 radio interview.
- Cesar Chavez in a 1974 interview.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking to reporters in 2019.
- Prof. George Borjas in a 2016 C-SPAN appearance.
- Sen. Jeff Sessions in 2008 comments on the Senate floor.
- Charlton Heston in "Planet of the Apes".