About Me

My photo
Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Friday, July 27, 2018

How new U.S. immigration policy is hurting domestic violence victims

San Diego Union Tribune (Op-Ed)
July 26, 2018

This month, the Trump administration quietly released a change to longstanding immigration policy that effectively converts many pathways to lawful status into high-stakes gambles that could trigger deportation. Among the pathways most affected are immigration remedies that Congress specifically created for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking who courageously report abuse and help U.S. law enforcement prosecute crimes.

The new policy requires U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to initiate removal proceedings against anyone whose petition for immigration benefits is denied and who does not have legal status at the time of denial. This substantial change to the Homeland Security Act will move tens of thousands of abuse victims into removal proceedings, have chilling effects on crime reporting and harm community safety, directly contradicting the Trump administration’s crime-fighting rhetoric justifying its immigration policies.

As the director of the UC Irvine Law Domestic Violence Clinic, I have witnessed the triple jeopardy that immigrant abuse victims face. Immigrant women and girls suffer heightened rates of abuse and are twice as likely as non-immigrant females to experience domestic violence. They typically endure horrific histories of abuse and contend with compounded language, cultural and economic barriers to escaping abuse. Finally, fear of deportation, especially given the increased presence of immigration agents at courthouses, prevents many abuse victims from coming out of the shadows.

In a bipartisan effort in 1994, Congress recognized immigrants’ vulnerability to abuse and difficulty seeking help from the justice system and enacted the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). With each reauthorization of VAWA during the past two decades, new immigration remedies were created or enhanced to better protect immigrant abuse victims and encourage them to report crimes, thus increasing community safety.

While early remedies protected victims who were married to abusive U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents (“VAWA Self-Petitions” and “Battered Spouse Waivers”), later remedies expanded beyond the marriage-based model to protect undocumented crime victims who experienced substantial harm from criminal activity in the United States, reported the crime and cooperated with the U.S. government (“U Visas” and “T Visas”).

These immigration remedies have never been easy to access, and they carry stringent requirements for formal evidence and cooperation with police and prosecution.

In order to submit a U Visa petition, law enforcement agencies or specified government officials must first certify that the petitioner was the victim of a qualifying crime, reported the crime to officials, and fully cooperated in the criminal investigation and prosecution.

Certification is far from automatic; in 2016, San Diego’s Police Department denied 41 percent of U Visa certification requests, and across California, approximately one-third of such requests are denied.

Still, our clinic was able to reassure frightened clients about VAWA confidentiality provisions that had been carefully created to prohibit disclosures to abusive partners. We were able to explain to our clients that Congress, in enacting the Homeland Security Act, designed the immigration system to have three different agencies, each with a separate component: service, border control and enforcement. The affirmative immigration remedies for crime victims — the VAWA Self-Petitions, Battered Spouse Waivers, and U and T Visas — are filed with USICS, the service branch. Under policy guidance in place since 2011, even if immigration petitions were denied, the “service” agency did not refer cases for enforcement and removal.

The Trump administration, undermining humanitarian efforts, contravening congressional intent to establish victim protections, and without congressional action, has now rewritten the Homeland Security Act to shift enforcement and removal to the service branch.

Police departments and courts were already reporting sharp decreases in abused individuals seeking help, including relief for which they are eligible. Regarding the volume of U Visa cases affected by the new policy, over 200,000 certified crime victims have petitions pending, and each year, approximately 20 percent of U Visa cases are denied. The new policy to deport certified crime victims whose petitions are denied adds to the climate of fear, dramatically increases deportation, harms community safety and must be challenged.

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

No comments: