08.21.12

Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy On The Success Of The U Visa Program To Protect Victims Of Domestic Violence And Sexual Assault

[Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) issued the following comment Tuesday after the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it has issued the maximum 10,000 petitions this year for nonimmigrant status under the U Visa program, which allows law enforcement officials to request visas for victims who assist in the investigation and prosecution of  domestic violence and sexual assault offenses and other serious crimes. The program was created by the 2000 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and this year’s reauthorization bill authored by Senator Leahy seeks to authorize USCIS to issue previously authorized, yet unused, U Visas from past years to further support law enforcement efforts when the annual cap is reached prior to the end of the fiscal year.]

“Today’s announcement by USCIS proves once again that the U Visa is a powerful law enforcement tool, providing critical protection for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other violent crimes, and ensuring that dangerous offenders are taken off our streets. The U Visa program has proven enormously successful, leading to the prosecution of thousands of violent offenders. 

“I am concerned, however, that for the third year in a row, USCIS has reached the statutory cap on this visa before the end of the fiscal year. The Senate responded to this issue, at the request of law enforcement officers and victim service providers from around the country, by passing a provision to allow USCIS to issue authorized, but unused, visas from past years as part of the bipartisan Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. The Leahy-Crapo bill passed the Senate with 68 votes, yet has become mired in election year politics. The House Republican leadership has refused to follow the Senate’s bipartisan lead, and instead pushed a bill that not only fails to include this necessary increase in U visas, but undermines the life-saving success of the U visa program by eliminating the path to citizenship for these visa holders. I hope that today’s announcement by USCIS will lay to rest these misguided efforts and prompt House Republicans to follow the Senate’s bipartisan efforts so that we can move forward to better protect all victims by enacting the Leahy-Crapo bill this fall.”

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