It seems unbelievable, but Congress limits the number of visas available to crime victims and battered women to just 10,000 per year. Two weeks ago, that limit was reached, so no more of the so-called “U Visas” will be issued until October 1, 2012, the start of the new Fiscal Year.
In the short term, this six week shut-down of the U Visa system will not harm any crime victims. They won’t be deported in the interim and they will be allowed to remain in the United States until the visas become available again. However, since this is the third year in a row that the system has had to shut down, and since the backlog of cases has grown steadily, it is only a matter of time before U Visas are all gobbled up in the first weeks of each new Fiscal Year. Then we will see rape victims and those women who are beaten by their husbands iced out of the process altogether.
Law enforcement will lose an important tool in prosecuting those who prey on vulnerable immigrant women.
President Obama tried to remedy this situation by increasing the number of U Visas from 10,000 currently to 15,000. This was blocked in the House of Representatives by opponents who wanted gay and lesbians who are victims of domestic violence removed from the protections offered under Obama’s proposal.
Congress needs to keep the culture wars over same-sex marriage out of this very basic protection for crime victims. Excluding immigrants from protection because of their sexual orientation is wrong. Holding up protections for all immigrant domestic violence victims to make a political point is simply criminal.