As many of you know, I like to provide updates on issues regarding human trafficking. This past week, Dan Torres of the Immigration Legal Resource Center provided a fact sheet and information regarding the Department of Labor’s certification of U Visas for victims of human trafficking. What is U Visas? U Visas are for victims of trafficking, who suffer physical or psychological harm connected to the criminal activity (child or sex trafficking, for ex.). They can self-petition if they help enforcement put the criminals who hurt them behind bars.
SECRETARY SOLIS ANNOUNCES THE DEPARTMENT TO EXERCISE
ITS AUTHORITY TO CERTIFY U VISAS
On March 15, 2010 Secretary Solis announced that the Department of Labor (DOL) will begin exercising its authority to certify applications for U Nonimmigrant Status Visas (“U Visas”).
What are U Visas?
U Nonimmigrant Visas (“U Visas”) were created by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-386). Victims of qualifying criminal activities who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse may apply for a U Visa if they are willing to assist law enforcement or other government officials in the investigation or prosecution of those crimes. Individuals who receive U Visas may remain in the United States for up to four years, and may eventually apply for permanent residency. Among other requirements, a federal law enforcement agency or official must certify that the U Visa petitioner “has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful” in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.
What is the Department’s authority to certify U Visas?
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations (8 C.F.R.§ 214.4(a)(2)) expressly list certain federal law enforcement agencies that may certify U Visa applications, including the Department of Labor. In doing so, DHS recognized that DOL’s investigators may detect evidence of qualifying criminal activities during the course of investigating violations of workplace laws.
How will the Department certify U Visas?
The authority to certify U Visas will be delegated to the Wage and Hour Division, which will identify potential U Visa applicants in appropriate circumstances during the course of workplace investigations.
The Wage and Hour Division is responsible for enforcing some of our nation’s most comprehensive federal labor laws, including the minimum wage, overtime pay, child labor, the employment of persons with disabilities, family and medical leave, the employment of temporary or seasonal migrant workers, the use of lie detector tests, and prevailing wages for government service and construction contracts.
Additional agencies may be delegated authority where appropriate.
When will the Department begin to certify U Visas?
Clear protocols regarding the identification of qualifying criminal activities and the certification of U Visa applications will be available in mid-summer. Certifications are not expected to begin before late summer.
What is a qualifying criminal activity?
Qualifying criminal activities involve violations of certain federal, state, or local criminal laws including: abduction, abusive sexual contact, blackmail, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, female genital mutilation, felonious assault, hostage-taking, incest, involuntary servitude, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, obstruction of justice, peonage, perjury, prostitution, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, slave trade, torture, trafficking, witness tampering, unlawful criminal restraint, and other related crimes.