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Immigrant Victims of Violent Crimes Sue U.S. Government for Visas

On Wednesday March 7, 2007, immigrant victims of violent crimes, including vigilante victims and survivors of domestic violence, filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of hundreds or thousands of undocumented immigrants living throughout the U.S. demanding that Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), issue visas to immigrant victims of violent crimes who have cooperated with law enforcement investigations or prosecutions of such crimes. In addition to the immigrants filing suit, other parties include several organizations that assist undocumented immigrants including Catholic Charities CYO (San Francisco, CA), International Institute of the East Bay (Oakland, CA), the Voces Unidas Project of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (Los Angeles, CA), the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN- Los Angeles, CA), Hermandad Mexicana Nacional (Los Angeles, CA), Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services (Texas), Friendly House (Arizona), and Sanctuary for Families (New York).

On October 28, 2000 - over six years ago - the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 ("Crime Victims Act"), was signed into law. Among other things, the Crime Victims Act permits undocumented immigrants who are victims of serious crimes, and who cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of those crimes, to apply for and receive “U” visas. This law reflects Congress’s judgment that certain crime victims should be permitted to remain lawfully in the United States both for humanitarian reasons and to bring dangerous, violent criminals to justice.

This is the second time such a lawsuit has been initiated on behalf of immigrant victims of violent crimes.  The first lawsuit was filed in October 2005 and resulted in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) obtaining an extension until July 2006 to promulgate regulations implementing the U visa law described above. However, they failed to meet this extended deadline. 

Defendants DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff and one of the agencies that he directs, the USCIS, have flouted and violated this important law – a law intended, among other things, to promote the national safety and security by encouraging immigrant crime victims and survivors to cooperate with local and federal law enforcement agencies to secure convictions of violent criminals.

The plaintiffs have, without success, applied to the U.S. Government for visas, and are now turning to the federal court in a nationwide class action lawsuit in an effort to force Secretary Chertoff and the USCIS to immediately begin complying with the five year-old Crime Victims Act. The plaintiffs include immigrants living in California, Arizona, Kentucky, Texas, and New York who are the victims of armed vigilante violence, felonious assault and survivors of criminal domestic violence.

Click here to download the complaint  (Link to 3-6-07 UVisa Complaint in Immigrant Victims of Crime folder)


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