Projects: National Immigrant Victims' Access to Justice Partnership
The National Immigrant Victims' Access to Justice Partnership works with law enforcement agencies to provide training on the U-visa, which provides legal immigration status for victims of crime who cooperate with law enforcement. With its partner in the project, Legal Momentum, Vera is providing law enforcement agencies nationwide with training and tools for using the U-visa.
In October 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded Vera and Legal Momentum a three-year grant to develop and distribute field-tested tools designed to make immigrants who are victims of crime more likely to report the crimes and cooperate with law enforcement officials. The project has created a training curriculum for police personnel, as well as a tool kit for law enforcement about using the U-visa. The project is also developing other related resources, such as webcasts, webinars, and podcasts.
Why Bring Together Law Enforcement and Immigrant Crime Victims?
Congress created the “U” nonimmigrant classification, known as the U-visa, as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000. The U-visa protects crime victims from deportation and strengthens the ability of law enforcement agencies to detect, investigate, prosecute, and solve cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, and other crimes.
By using this visa, law enforcement officers can address immigrant victims’ fear of reporting crime and encourage collaboration with investigators. Yet few law enforcement agencies are aware of the U-visa and how it can be used as a crime-fighting tool. Many of those who are familiar with this type of visa are unclear about how it fits into their agency’s broader public safety efforts. Law enforcement officers need to know how to use all the tools at their disposal effectively—including the U-visa—so that they can help keep communities safe.
- Alexandria (VA) Police Department
- Appleton (WI) Police Department
- Austin (TX) Police Department
- Boise (ID) Police Department
- City of La Crosse (WI) Police Department
- Lexington County (SC) Sheriff’s Department
- Metropolitan Nashville (TN) Police Department
- Metropolitan (DC) Police Department
- Multnomah County (OR) Sheriff’s Office
- Salem (MA) Police Department
- San Francisco (CA) Police Department
- Storm Lake (IA) Police Department
- Travis County (TX) Sheriff’s Office
The training was the first of 13. We have since completed trainings in the following cities: San Francisco, CA; Appleton, WI; Hilo, HI; San Antonio, TX; Spokane, WA; Alexandria, VA; and Edison, NJ. These trainings focus on issues important to officers’ understanding and use of the U-visa, including:
- the U-visa certification process;
- enhancing officers’ capacity to work with immigrant victims;
- the U-visa application procedure; and
- reasons that law enforcement agents may not be signing U-visa certifications.
The National Immigrant Victims’ Access to Justice Partnership has also developed a tool kit for law enforcement that includes training modules and other materials related to the U-visa, such as a model policy and a FAQ sheet.
Community members or law enforcement officials who are interested in learning more about future trainings or hosting one should contact Susan Shah.