The Problem With the 'Victim Visa'

But, prior to invoking the "blue slip" technicality, some Republicans had expressed cynicism about the growing U visa program and attempted to restrict the visas further by mandating that abuses be reported to law enforcement within two months of taking place.

"Most cases should not require the promise of a visa to get people to come forward to report crimes or provide witness testimony," said Ira Mehlman of FAIR of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group which seeks to lower immigration levels. "When someone comes forward in those situations, that is not the time for police to ask about immigration status and, as a matter of course, they do not. There is no need to offer rewards to people for them to simply do what is right."

Law enforcement agents aren't technically allowed to ask about a victim's legal status when responding to emergency calls, but this rule is not always followed by police. And regardless of how likely deportation is in these instances, fear over this prospect still inhibits witnesses and victims in undocumented communities from coming forward.

Susan Nelson, the Waco Texas attorney representing Rosa in her fight for a U visa application, believes despite her client's legal status, there's a moral imperative to help victims in Rosa's positions. Nelson says the claims that the system is susceptible to fraud is unfounded, given the fact that its very difficult to even qualify for the program because all crimes must be certified by prosecutors or the police.

Of the four U visa applications Nelson submitted to District Attorney Abel Reyna 's office over the last two years, all were rejected. Rosa's application sat on the desk of District Attorney Abel Reyna for 10 months before he rejected it, according to Nelson.

"U visas are not supposed to be a reward for testimony, but rather an insurance policy to make sure that justice is done," Reyna wrote on his office's Facebook wall in response to an article critical of how he handled the case. Reyna's spokesperson said he was unable to comment for this article due to a very busy court schedule this week.

Although Reyna refused to sign a certification after Rosa's case was closed, other local law-enforcement agents won't issue a U visa while the case is ongoing, because they fear the defendant will lose their desire to cooperate fully without the visa incentive, according to Susan Bowyer. She says part of the hesitation to sign a U visa certification has to do with how undocumented immigrants are viewed by law enforcement.

"The problem is in our country is we loathe undocumented immigrants, and we call them illegals and aliens, and so law enforcement feels very torn, and the question is fraught, about what to do when the victim herself is undocumented," Bowyer says. "And they have to sign under the certification under the penalty of perjury, so it puts a lot of pressure on law enforcement."

Luckily for Rosa, her attorney was able to appeal to other agencies to finally get her certification. Judge Ralph Strother of Wacos 19th State District Court finally issued the visa after Nelson approached local courts as a last resort.

"She didn't ask to be here or ask to be a victim," the judge told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "It was just the right thing to do."

But that doesn't mean Rosa will receive a visa. In just three months, the government has already awarded half of the visas allotted for this year.

"[Rosa and her mother] have some sense of relief now that they've gotten the certification, but we still have a long way to go," Nelson said.

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