Immigrants sue over visas

first_imgThe groups filing the lawsuit on behalf of a dozen qualifying immigrants also include the Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach and several other immigrant organizations. The defendants are Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The suit asks the court for an injunction requiring the federal government to expedite “U” visa applications and issue regulations. Implementing the new rules is a complex process that involves several government agencies, said Sharon Rummery, spokeswoman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “We want the `U’ visa regulations to be well thought out,” she said. “We want something that’s going to work well for all concerned.” The plaintiffs include undocumented immigrants living in California, Arizona, Kentucky, Texas and New York who have been victims of domestic violence, attempted murder, aggravated assault and other crimes. Often, their cooperation with police has led to successful prosecution, their attorneys said. SAN FRANCISCO – Undocumented immigrants who have suffered violent crimes sued the federal government Wednesday for failing to issue them protective visas approved by Congress more than six years ago. The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, signed in 2000, created a visa category that would let victims of violent crimes who overcome their fear of deportation and cooperate with law enforcement to remain in the country and eventually apply for permanent residency. But federal immigration authorities still have not issued application forms or regulations for the “U” visa, making it impossible for qualifying immigrants to take advantage of the protection, the attorneys said. “We finally decided that without the intervention of the federal courts, we could easily be waiting for another six years before an application form is made available,” said Peter A. Schey, president of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and lead counsel for the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Federal immigration officials said those who qualify for the visa have been allowed to remain in the country while they await the regulations with a “deferred action” status. But this temporary status leaves them in a legal limbo, uncertain of their future and unable to travel abroad to see family or bring their children to the United States, they said. One would-be visa applicant, Maria Ester Perez, was physically abused by her boyfriend. Help came after he started hitting her with a belt in the middle of the street, prompting passersby to call the police. Perez helped authorities arrest and prosecute the man. With police certification that she’d been essential to landing her abuser in jail, she applied for a visa in July 2004. She was given a work permit and temporary protection from deportation, but feels unsafe without permanent residency. She also worries about her children in El Salvador, whom she hasn’t seen in six years. “I wish I had legal status so I could travel to El Salvador,” she said. “I would feel safer with residence papers.” Another plaintiff, Eleuterio Rodriguez Ruiz, was held face down at gunpoint by a vigilante in Maricopa County, Ariz. He cooperated with police, who arrested the vigilante and charged him with assault with a deadly weapon. This is the second lawsuit asking for implementation of the “U” visa. The first was voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiffs after the Department of Homeland Security went to Congress and got an extension to issue the regulations by July 2006 – a deadline they’ve since missed, the attorneys said. The immigrants involved “have followed all the rules and complied with law enforcement requests for assistance,” said Becky Bogyo, with Catholic Charities in San Francisco, one of the plaintiffs. “Now they’re waiting for the U.S. government to follow through.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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