July 17, 2019

Castro and Moore Co-Draft Letter to USCIS and ICE to Address Ongoing Mistreatment of Abused Immigrants

Despite the Creation of U-visa to Protect Survivors, Immigrant Victims Still Afraid to Report Domestic Violence Crimes to the Police and Face Threats of Deportation in Face of Abuse

WASHINGTON—Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Vice Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and a member of the House Intelligence and Education and Labor Committees, and Congresswoman Gwen Moore (WI-04), a member of the Ways and Means Committee, co-drafted and sent a letter today to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to address the mismanagement of the U-visa program, which was put in place to protect immigrant victims when they go to the police or court to seek help from abuse, domestic violence, or any other crime:

“Neither protection nor justice can be achieved when victims, terrified of deportation, refuse to report crimes to the police. It also sharpens the tools of abusers who are further emboldened to use the immigration system to threaten migrant victims. And when ICE deports those victims that do come forward, it re-victimizes them and undermines bipartisan Congressional intent behind the U-visa program,” said Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20). “Without this crucial protection, we are hindering our law enforcement’s ability to enforce the rule of law as well as failing in our pursuit of protecting those who have fallen victim to heinous domestic abuse crimes.”

“When I led the 2013 reauthorization for the Violence Against Women Act, I understood how critical it was to empower survivors of domestic violence, especially our undocumented brothers and sisters. It’s why I’m so alarmed by reports that ICE and USCIS are not following U-visa guidance. No one’s immigration status should be a barrier to seeking justice,” said Congresswoman Gwen Moore (WI-04). “When ICE and USCIS officials don’t adhere to longstanding U-visa policy guidance, it makes our communities less safe, as domestic violence victims are forced to make the perilous choice of staying with their perpetrator or face deportation. We need answers and accountability from this administration and we must be vigilant in our duties to protect our most vulnerable communities.”

Background: After the creation of the U-visa, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued policy guidance to create a safety net against the removal of victims with pending applications. However, even though ICE has publicly stated that they are still abiding by this guidance, in practice, it has been reported that some ICE officers are operating as if this guidance is rescinded. We must continue to ensure the protection of all victims of crimes, and that these systems not be used as a tool to carry out the threats of abusers and perpetrators of crime.

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