Los Angeles, California - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris issued an information bulletin to California law enforcement agencies detailing new responsibilities under state law to assist immigrant crime victims in applying for U visas, a form of immigration relief specifically set aside for victims of crime who lack authorized immigration status.
California’s Immigrant Victims of Crime Equity Act (SB 674, De León), which takes effect on January 1, 2016, will require state and local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, judges, and other specified officials to certify the helpfulness of immigrant crime victims of specified qualifying crimes on a federal U Nonimmigrant Status Certification, also known as a “U visa certification.” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services considers these certifications in determining whether to grant a qualifying immigrant a U visa.
“Protecting victims of crime and encouraging their cooperation in criminal investigations and prosecutions keeps our communities safe,” said Attorney General Harris. “This information bulletin provides state and local law enforcement with clear direction to comply with the new U visa requirements, which will help prosecutors obtain convictions while strengthening the relationship of trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities.”
The new law (Penal Code Section 679.10) mandates that certain state and local law enforcement agencies and other specified officials complete U visa certifications, upon request, for immigrant crime victims who have been helpful, are being helpful, or are likely to be helpful in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of specified qualifying crimes. The new law also requires certifying entities to complete the certification within 90 days of the request, except in cases where the applicant is in immigration removal proceedings, in which case the certification must be completed within 14 days of the request
In addition to providing guidance on the new state law, the Attorney General’s bulletin summarizes existing federal law governing U visas, answers relevant questions regarding U visa eligibility, and encourages state and local law enforcement agencies and officers to be vigilant in identifying and supporting immigrant crime victims who may be eligible for U visas.
U Visas are federal immigration visas designed only for victims of crime who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse because of criminal activity, and who are willing to assist federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies or government officials in the investigation of that criminal activity.
Attorney General Harris previously issued two information bulletins regarding immigration issues to local law enforcement agencies. A bulletin in 2012 advised that local law enforcement had the discretion not to enforce Secure Communities detainer requests and in 2014, the second bulletin provided local law enforcement with updated guidance based on the state’s TRUST Act, which was passed to promote community policing and trust between law enforcement and communities.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Harris sent a letter to U.S. Senate Leaders opposing S. 2146, legislation that would withhold federal funding from California law enforcement agencies that comply with the TRUST Act.