U visa helping arrest thousands more criminals - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

U visa helping arrest thousands more criminals

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Thousands of more victims of crime are speaking up thanks to the U-visa. The increasing number of cases are leading to more arrests.

Thousands of undocumented immigrants including mothers and children, victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, are receiving U-visas every year. This allows them to stay and work in the US legally for up to four years and help law enforcement prosecute the criminal.

Amarillo Immigration Lawyer Shilpa Shah says, "They're scared to come forward, but, you know, there comes a point in time when I think they realize that for their safety, or the safety of their children, they have to come forward. And in those situations, I have seen the perpetrators who are either US Citizens, or green card holders, they do eventually go to jail."

Last year more than 20,000 immigrants applied for this visa, but only 10,000 are available annually. Shah says, "It's definitely getting more utilized. And part of that is that there's more education of the U-visa within communities." And if signed into law by the president, the new version of the U-visa will expand to protect victims of stalking.

Before applying, they must be certified by police, a judge or district attorney. Shah says, "Sometimes you get the resistance from the law enforcement side because they don't want to open up the flood gates, and have people claim that they're victims of some sort of crime whether it's legitimate or something that someone creates."

But local attorneys say usually by the time they're pending approval, most people are already safe from the criminal. Shah says, "The offender has gone through his court date, his or her court date. And they've already been convicted. They could be behind bars."

Jessica Abuchaibe, NewsChannel 10.