The U-Visa System needs to be Reformed!

If we want to expand the U-Visas offered, we must reform the system first.

Lily C Escalante , Editor/Writer

The only way to get what you want in this world is through hard work,” Princess Tiana said from her Disney movie, Princess and the Frog. Unfortunately, in the real world, this stands true. No matter how much people beg to get U-Visas expanded, they’re failing to see the problem. Strenuous work must be done to the system itself in order for this expansion to be successful. And because of this work not being done along with three other reasons, expanding the U-Visas offered in the U.S. will not give us the results we desperately want.

To begin, the United States along with several other countries offers U non immigrant status- or U Visa- to victims of specific crimes. According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, these specific crimes include mental or physical abuse, trafficking, sexual assault, and a plethora of other crimes. Currently, the limit on U Visas is 10,000. Biden is proposing an increase in funding and raising the cap by however the increased funding will allow. However, funding is not the issue here. It is the lack of workers.

Due to current backlogs, the expansion will be useless and potentially damaging. New challenges have been presented because of the expansion of Temporary Protected Status and the accompanying demand for employment authorization documents. USCIS is processing work authorization for more than 70,000 Afghans paroled into the US following their evacuation. And this begins to work through the 285,000 applications for U Visas to determine those eligible for protection from removal and work authorization. Some say we need more U Visas to spur the economy, however this argument has already been disproven. The reality is, this raises a detrimental realization about our current system. We are so backlogged we can’t even handle an expansion of U Visas because they take 5 years each to be approved at least. Right now, we already have enough on our plates- in fact, more than enough. We must solve the issues with backlogs because not only is it unfair to our employees, but also to the people who would be waiting on authorization with false hope. 

Which brings me to my second issue with the increases. Even under the current policy, U Visas take 5 years to process, and by then it is already too late. More in depth reform is desperately needed before the limit is expanded further. Processing times for U Visas grew from two years in 2016 to four years this year. While 85% of applicants are approved, so little U Visas are available, that they’re put on a waiting list. But even if we are to expand the limits, it can take years to get on the list alone, and this leaves people vulnerable after the Trump administration issued a memo making it easier to deport U Visa applicants. So this constant paranoia makes it incredibly difficult for them to function. We must handle the current issues by reforming the system, then expand the U-Visa funding as necessary. 

And lastly, the program has a multitude of policy obstacles that make it ineffective. Certifying agencies and issues with undocumented immigration laws only further confusion and legal hurdles. There are no standard rules for police about what qualifies as cooperation. Furthermore, there are credible reports of police refusing to certify the assistance of victims who clearly qualify. This is unfair to immigrants who were hoping for a new life in the U.S., it repeats problems they were already trying to escape. Also, the same crime and level of cooperation may lead one jurisdiction to certify a U Visa petition, while another may decline. This uncertainty is not what our immigrants need, and is not a problem addressed in this expansion. 

For these 3 reasons, and the fact that no work is being done to get what the expansion wants, we must instead support a reform of the USCIS instead of increasing their funding. Because at the end of the day, our immigrants deserve far more than money being thrown at them to ‘solve the system.’ Follow the wise words of Princess Tiana, get the work done first, and the results will prove fruitful.