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March 4, 2012 The Honorable Patrick J.

Leahy 437 Russell Senate Office Building United States Senate Washington, DC 20510 The Honorable Charles E. Grassley 135 Hart Senate Office Building United States Senate Washington, DC 20510 Re: US: U-Visa Provisions in the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act Dear Honorable Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee: In anticipation of the Committees consideration of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act tomorrow, I am writing to express my strongest support for expanding and improving the protections afforded to immigrant victims of crime by the U-visa. I have conducted extensive analysis on a range of immigration issues in the United States. In the process, I have analyzed interviewed documents of immigrant victims of crime, their attorneys, law enforcement officers, and social service providers who have attested to the critical importance of the U-visa, both as a means for protecting the rights of immigrant victims and as a tool for holding perpetrators of crime accountable. From the well documentation of Human rights watch , I have came to know that for many victims the U-visa is the single light at the end of a long tunnel of suffering. Diana O. was 17 when she came from Honduras to Mexico. In Mexico, she was held by the Zetas drug cartel before being trafficked into the US. Found abandoned in a trailer in Texas by Border Patrol, she had been raped repeatedly by people paying money to her traffickers and had been forced to carry drugs. Her attorney told Human Rights Watch that Diana was severely traumatized and called her every day from immigration detention. In February 2010, Diana O. was granted a Uvisa. The U-visa works because it sends the message to immigrant victims that their abusers cannot use US immigration law to trap them in a cycle of violence. The U-visa tells victims that they do not need to choose between deportation and a life of abuse. The visa provides an alternative to immediate deportation to victims who seek protection from the police and cooperate with the criminal justice system. However, if that alternative does not exist, either because the cap on the

annual number of visas may have been reached or because the process for law enforcement certification is unclear, victims are again put in the position of worrying that they cannot seek safety without jeopardizing their residency in the US. To be eligible for a U-visa, a victim must have a certification from law enforcement indicating his or her cooperation with the investigation or prosecution. This helps law enforcement acquire important information that they need to bring criminals to justice and ensure general public safety. It also acts as a barrier to false claims. However, real victims may face difficulties because police departments and prosecutors vary widely in their approach to providing certification, which is completely at their discretion. I support efforts to clarify the certification process. For example, allowing law enforcement officers with supervisory responsibilities to sign a certification and allowing the Department of Homeland Security to consider secondary evidence apart from the law enforcement certification of a victims helpfulness to an investigation. The fact that the U-visa cap was met in fiscal years 2010 and 2011 (only two years after the visa was first made available) is a testament to the importance of the visa. It is also a notice that the cap needs to be raised if the U-visa is to continue providing a trusted avenue for immigrant victims of crime to seek redress. I urge the Committee to approve an increase in the annual cap and to give the utmost consideration to changes that would facilitate the certification process for the U-visa. Sincerely, William Nicholas Gomes Williams Desk www.williamgomes.org