The FBI recently reported an overall increase of 1.7% in the number of violent crimes for the first 6 months of 2015 compared with figures reported for the same time in 2014. That year, there were around 5.4 million violent victimizations, with only 46% of these victimizations reported to police.
Why do victims fail to report?
According the FBI, barriers to reporting include:
- Fear of reprisal or getting the offender in trouble
- Believing that police would not or could not do anything to help
- Believing the crime to be a personal issue or too trivial to report
These fears are greatly amplified when a victim is undocumented. A recent study reveals that in immigrant communities, 56% stated they knew someone who had been a victim of domestic violence and 41% of those surveyed stated that the primary reason for failure to report crimes was fear of deportation.
The government has acknowledged these issues and have provided avenues of relief for crime victims with or without legal status.
Government Services for Crime Victims
All states receive Federal funds from the Office of Victims Services to help support local victim assistance and compensation programs. These programs can help a crime victim, with or without legal status, with medical bills, counseling expenses, burial & funeral costs, lost wages and other types of assistance.
Click here for the searchable directory to help you find assistance in your state.
In New York, the NYS Office of Victim Services can help pay unreimbursed crime-related expenses, including but not limited to: medical and funeral expenses, loss of earnings or support, counseling costs, crime scene clean-up expenses, the cost to repair or replace items of essential personal property, reasonable court transportation expenses, assistance to crime victims acting as a good Samaritan, the cost of residing at or utilizing the services of a domestic violence shelter, and limited attorney fees. The office can be reached toll free at 800-247-8035. A copy of the A Guide to Crime Victims’ Compensation in New York State brochure is available here.
Visas for Undocumented Crime Victims
Recognizing that victims without legal status may be reluctant to aid in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity for fear of deportation, in 2000, Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act (VTVPA) to encourage crime reporting and strengthen the ability of law enforcement to combat crime.
The U Visa
This visa is for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity.
Qualifying criminal activities include the following crimes, other related crimes, and attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit any of the following:
*Includes any similar activity where the elements of the crime are substantially similar.
†Also includes attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above and other related crimes.
How Do I Apply?
The application is filed on Form I-918. There is no fee for this application and no separate employment authorization application is needed. With this form, submit the following:
- I-918 Supplement B – certification from government official that you are currently helping, have been helpful or will likely be helpful with the investigation or prosecution of the case
- A personal statement describing the criminal activity
- Evidence of substantial physical or mental harm suffered as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity – includes hospital/medical records, psychological evaluation, photos, affidavits of persons with first-hand knowledge, articles, and others.
Currently, there is a backlog in adjudicating these types of petitions, but it is possible to obtain employment authorization while waiting for the application to be adjudicated.
Victims often encounter numerous challenges when applying for this visa, including: police prejudice, ignorance of the law on the part of court officials, limited resources of government agency and suspicion from the authorities. If you feel that you qualify for this type of relief, we recommend consulting with an immigration attorney who can evaluate your case, determine your immigration options and help you navigate through the different agencies involved.
Click here to download Immigration Options for Victims of Crimes, a brochure from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services containing information about this type of visa and other types of immigration remedies for crime victims.
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