As the hearing proceeded, Judge Mattice continued further by saying, "This woman has entered the U.S. illegally on two occasions and received no punishment. We are basically rewarding her. Every illegal in the country would be willing to serve 0-6 months in order to get immunity."
Perez received her U visa after an employer, Durrett Cheese Sales, Inc. of Manchester, TN violated the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Act and knowingly hired illegal immigrants, then refused to pay them for their work. When Perez questioned her payment, she was turned over to authorities as being an illegal alien. The U.S. EEO office found that Perez had been discriminated against and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit. After Perez agreed to help prosecute Durrett Cheese Sales, the president of the company and several other workers, it led the Department of Homeland Security to issue her a U visa.
Another case, in California, involved a woman (name restricted) abused by her husband. She was smuggled into Los Angeles when she was 14 years old by her mother. She then met her future husband at age 16. He kept a tight hold on her, not allowing her to attend social events or venture far from home. It was when she caught him cheating that he beat her and attempted to rape her. He then left her and their children and ran.
She filed an affidavit against him and received a U visa after agreeing to help in the prosecution. While still not a legal resident, she has recently obtained a driver's license and a legal babysitting job.
A deputy public defender, Tamara Chellam, in Marin County, California had expressed her great concern for the U visa's incentives for illegals or noncitizens. After defending a man who was accused of domestic violence, Chellam stated that these types of incentives could create an irresistible reason to invent or exaggerate offenses to gain a U visa.
In October 2000, Congress created the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act. The U visa was granted under this Act for noncitizens who have suffered physical or mental abuse resulting from criminal activity that is in direct violation of Federal, State, or local criminal law, and noncitizens who help or plan to help law enforcement in the investigation and/or prosecution of a crime, which must have occurred in the United States.
Such criminal activity may include rape, torture, trafficking, incest, domestic violence, sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, prostitution, sexual exploitation, being held hostage, peonage, involuntary servitude, slave trade, kidnapping, abduction, unlawful criminal restraint, false imprisonment, blackmail, extortion, manslaughter, murder, felonious assault, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, perjury, or attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit any of these crimes.
In addition to having fallen victim to one of the above crimes, a noncitizen filing for a U visa must have obtained certification from a Federal, State or local law enforcement official, prosecutor or the judge presiding over the case. This certification can come in the form of a letter, must be created by the applicant's legal representative stating the immigrant was a victim of one or more crimes protected under the U visa; the crimes must be identified; and it must verify that the victim is, has been or is likely to be helpful to the prosecution of investigation of criminal activity.
This document must then be verified and signed by a law enforcement official stating that all of the information accounted is accurate.
After being issued a U visa, the applicant may then file an Application for Employment Authorization, which allows illegal immigrants and noncitizens to work legally inside the United States.
After three years of holding a U visa, its holder may then apply for permanent residence and potentially have their U visa status adjusted to "green card."
After the final regulations were put into law for the U visa in 2007, Congress approved an annual limit (from October 1 through September 30) of 10,000 visas. Since 2008, over 8,000 U visas have been approved and more than 10,000 are currently pending.
While these U visa laws seem like a grand leniency on immigration enforcement to those supporting the protection of our borders, those in favor of immigration reform don't see it as such. Thousands upon thousands gathered at the National Mall in Washington during the big HealthCare reform vote on March 21 to make their voices heard in regards to immigration reform. Many were there to support President Obama in the next big overhaul of reform, others were there to express their frustration with Obama and his broken promise to overhaul the immigration system during his first year in office.
Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have recently authored a new reform plan, which the President supports. According to Personal Liberty Digest, www.personalliberty.com, the plan "will force undocumented workers to admit they broke the law, pay back taxes and perform community service to become legal United States residents. Illegal immigrants would also need to pass a background check and an English exam before being cleared to stay in the country."
CNN.com also reported that in 2006 former President George W. Bush supported a bipartisan effort to overhaul U.S. immigration laws "proposing to set up a path to legal status for the estimated 11 million people in the United States without authorization. But those measures were criticized as establishing amnesty for illegal immigrants, and legislation Bush supported died with a Senate filibuster - one led by members of his own party but joined by more than a dozen Democrats."
With the HealthCare reform bill just pushed through the House and Senate, the President has stated he will now set his sights on Immigration Reform. Former President Bush failed once already, government is currently divided over HealthCare and several immigration reform opponents say that passing such a deal would be political suicide at this time. However, Obama stated that by the end of 2010 he will "do everything in [his] power" to have an immigration bill before Congress.