“Local man convicted of extortion in sex case” (news article, Nov. 25) highlights an all too common issue faced by immigrants to the U.S. — sexual harassment in the workplace. While undocumented workers make up a vital, though invisible, portion of the workforce, their invisibility has created a situation wrought with abuse. And yet nearly 70 percent of undocumented immigrants are less likely to contact police if they have been a victim of violence in fear of deportation. Bravo to these men and women for coming forward and helping put this criminal behind bars.
But what’s next for these undocumented victims? Unfortunately, their road to freedom could be longer than that of their perpetrator. It is true that they are now eligible for a U Visa, giving them temporary legal status and work eligibility, but the reality of such an opportunity is unlikely at best.
The U.S. recently exceeded its annual cap of 10,000 U Visas for the fourth consecutive year and as a result nearly 22,000 victims are hanging in the balance. A provisional increase of 5,000 U Visas per year was introduced as part of the 2013 Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, but was eventually rejected by the House of Representatives and remains unchanged.
Victims’ discouragement to report violent crimes for fear of deportation or other factors contributes to the ongoing cycle of violence in the immigrant community as law enforcement officials are unaware of the abuse and unable to prosecute perpetrators. Without consequence, perpetrators continue committing these heinous acts of violence freely. As a result, the society, especially within the immigrant population, becomes wrought with crime, threatening our safety and robbing us of our rights to liberty, equality, and freedom from injustice.
Immigrant victims of violence, like the men and women of Vail Run, have the opportunity to receive life-saving services in return for their commitment to aid officials in prosecuting criminals. Because of the meager allotment of U Visas, however, too many of these victims are denied those opportunities.