Monday, March 17, 2008

Help for Alien Victims of Crime

There has been a lot of discussion in the newspapers lately about victims of trafficking. Father Bilotti has written informative columns in the North Star to help describe these victims, distinguish them from victims of domestic violence, and promote their rights and entitlements to help through legal means.

But there are other victims of crime in the CNMI who may also have rights that they don't know about. In particular, when aliens are victims of certain serious crimes, they may have the right to get a "U Visa," which authorizes them to live in the U.S., and get an employment authorization to work there. U Visa holders may stay in the CNMI with the U Visa, or they may choose to relocate to Guam, Hawaii or the U.S. mainland. They may renew their U Visas on an annual basis, and eventually may qualify for U.S. citizenship.

In order to get a U Visa, a victim must have suffered from a serious crime on this list:

domestic violence,
sexual assault,
abusive sexual contact,
sexual exploitation,
female genital mutilitation,
being held hostage, peonage,
involuntary servitude,
slave trade,
unlawful criminal restraint,
false imprisonment,
felonious assault,
witness tampering,
obstruction of justice,
or attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit any of the above.

The victim must have suffered substantial physical, emotional or psychological abuse as a result of the crime.

The victim must possess information about the crime and be willing to help or have helped the government in its criminal investigation or prosecution.

The government (CNMI or U.S.) must certify that the victim was or is helpful.

And the crime must have violated some U.S. law, occuring in the U.S. (including the CNMI).

MLSC has already helped some aliens apply for U Visas. The process can take time.

Information about petitions for U Nonimmigrant status can be found on-line here.

If you've been a victim of a serious crime in the CNMI, or know someone who has, and you are not a U.S. citizen, you may want to consider whether you qualify for a U Visa. This is an important remedy that offers significant potential benefits to any non-U.S. citizen victim. Because of the complexity of the forms and the importance of the various procedures, I would recommend any victim who thinks they may qualify for a U Visa to seek legal help.

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