On July 5, the US Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) published new guidance that betrays our values and endangers our communities.
The new policy gives USCIS new powers and direction to begin deportation proceedings against all applicants for immigration benefits that are denied, regardless of their circumstances and the reason for the denial. There are a host of common mistakes that might cause an application to be denied: lost document, missed deadline, smudged copy, incomplete answer. Trauma victims are even more likely to make a mistake, leave out key details, or be unable to access documents from their home country. With the threat of deportation resulting from any mistake, crime victims will be even less likely to report to law enforcement, leaving traffickers to act with impunity. This flies in the face of reason.
We are the nation’s largest network of providers working with human trafficking survivors in the US. Our 57 members serve approximately 2,000 survivors of labor and sex trafficking, minors and adults, of all genders and nationalities, each year. All of these survivors have one thing in common, they have endured a loss of freedom and justice at the hands of their traffickers. And we believe that the US should be doing everything in its’ power to reduce the likelihood of trafficking and ensure comprehensive services and support for survivors.
In 2000, Congress created a special T Visa to encourage trafficking victims to work with law enforcement and prosecutors. Witness testimony is critically important to trafficking prosecutions, and the visa allows survivors to access the services and support they need to heal. But the T Visa application is complicated, and not all of them are approved when they are first submitted. This new USCIS policy will send any T Visa application that is not approved for immediate deportation, instead of giving the survivor time to regroup and refile their application.
Nothing could be more dangerous, more unjust, or more inhumane.
FNUSA urges USCIS to reverse this policy. NTA should not be issued as a matter of course to immigrants who are doing their best to file their applications, stand in line, and comply with the law. Absent compelling factors, applicants should be encouraged to follow the procedures established by USCIS to appeal their denial, submit additional evidence, or refile their applications without threat of immediate deportation.
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