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Vast Majority Of Crime Victim Visa Applicants Are Illegal Aliens, Internal Study Finds

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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  • The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that manages legal immigration into the United States, released a study on its U visa program. 
  • The U visa program provides legal status and a pathway to citizenship for aliens who are victim to a crime and are willing to work with law enforcement, but it’s been long accused of attracting fraud and abuse. 
  • The USCIS study found that 93% of all applicants were living in the U.S. illegally, many approved petitioners had been previously deported, and others were previously booked for human smuggling. 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) discovered that nearly all U visa applicants are living in the country illegally, drawing further accusations that the program is poorly designed and attracts fraud.

USCIS, the agency tasked with managing the country’s legal immigration system, released a demographic study on its U visa program. The program was established as a way to encourage foreign nationals to approach law enforcement about criminal activity, but its promise of legal status has spawned numerous stories of illegal aliens concocting false stories in an attempt to score U visas for themselves and others.

Ninety-three percent of foreign nationals did not have legal status at the time of their U visa application — 79% of them had entered the country illegally, and another 14% had entered the U.S. legally but overstayed their visa at the time of their application.

The agency’s study also found that a sizable number applicants had a history of immigration fraud prior to their U visa application.

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Canine Handler Agent Jose Solis, walks Max, a Belgian Malinois, while pursuing suspects near Marfa, Texas on January 29, 2020. (Photo by Paul Ratje / AFP) (Photo by PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images)

Roughly 10% of approved petitioners required a waiver for fraud or willful misrepresentation — which includes submitting bogus immigration documents or falsely claiming to have an immigration status to a government official. Eight percent of approved petitioners had been previously deported, and 6% received a waiver for a past smuggling attempt.

The data has prompted concern among immigration experts about how the U visa program is being utilized.

“The demographic information presented in the USCIS study, together with the statistics showing the expanding number of U visa applications and anecdotal information from expert observers, indicate that there are valid reasons for concern that the U visa program may not be operating as Congress intended and may be vulnerable to fraud and abuse,” said Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

First established in 2000 via passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, the U visa program was intended to incentivize immigrants into helping law enforcement catch and prosecute criminals. Illegal aliens, who would otherwise be hesitant to approach law enforcement because of their status, could apply for a U visa if they were the victim of a crime and work with police.

U visas, once approved, can provide illegal alien applicants with a green card and a pathway to citizenship for themselves and their families.

The program, unsurprisingly, has exploded in popularity over the years. The annual number of applications has quintupled over the past 10 years, with approximately 11,000 petitions in 2009 rising to 59,000 in 2018, according to CIS. However, the program has attracted rampant fraud from illegal aliens hoping to score legal status in the United States, with stories popping up across the country of people concocting elaborate hoaxes in order to obtain a U visa.

From bogus restaurant robberies at gunpoint, a man duct-taping and tying himself up in a fake abduction, to a woman charging illegal aliens thousands of dollars to cut them up and file a false report, many aliens have proven they are willing to go to great lengths to obtain a U visa by any means necessary.

Unfortunately, the U visa program’s propensity to attract fraud has resulted in some U.S. citizens to be victim to false accusations.

Immigrants wait in line to become U.S. citizens at a naturalization ceremony on Feb. 2, 2018 in New York City. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) swore in 128 immigrants from 42 different countries during the ceremony at the downtown Manhattan Federal Building. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Immigrants wait in line to become U.S. citizens at a naturalization ceremony on February 2, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Codias Brown, a resident of Texas and a veteran of Republican campaigns, was falsely accused in late 2016 of stalking a woman. The charges were ultimately dropped in 2018 — after he spent thousands of dollars in court defending himself — following discovery of his phone location data, proving he wasn’t near the areas of the alleged crimes, and after his legal counsel asked if the accuser had applied for a U visa — an investigation later found that she had.

Brown has now dedicated much of his time to pushing lawmakers and the Trump administration to reform visa laws to remove incentives for fraud. He took issue with the USCIS study on the demographic makeup of the U visa program, saying the agency is not even addressing the most central question: “How many crimes are actually being solved as a result of this program?”

“The latest USCIS report doesn’t even address this question. In fact, USCIS has no idea how many crimes are being solved because USCIS still doesn’t require law enforcement officials who certify these U-visas applications to report the ultimate case disposition for each qualifying crime,” Brown told the Daily Caller News Foundation. (RELATED: ‘Disregarding Fundamental Human Rights’: Democrats Criticize Border Closure Meant To Protect US From Coronavirus)

“The truth is that the number of crimes solved because of the U-visa program would be so embarrassingly low that the program would be exposed for what it is — a massive backdoor amnesty program that puts a target on the back of U.S. citizens who are being falsely accused of crimes so criminal aliens can gain legal status,” he continued.

As for USCIS study, the agency said it will use the information it gained to improve the “integrity” of the U visa system. USCIS also pledged to reduce frivolous applications and rectify the program’s vulnerabilities.

Unfortunately for many citizens like Brown, the damage is already done.

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