Immigrants in the United States often find themselves or their family members victims of serious crimes. T Visas are for immigrant survivors of labor or sex trafficking and U Visas are for immigrants who are victims of violent crimes. Despite passage of these special visas, the number of crimes committed and the number of crimes reported to authorities does not equalize. Even when an immigrant victim must report and cooperate with the authorities in order to obtain a T or U Visa, reporting remains uncommon. At HRI we get phone calls almost every day from immigrants who have yet to report being a crime victim.
Various factors contribute to this emerging, yet troubling, trend. Many immigrants fear reporting a crime will expose their status and authorities will be more concerned with the deportation process, as opposed to the T or U Visa process and prosecuting the real criminal. Crimes against children tend to go unreported because immigrant parents fear their children will be placed in foster care once authorities learn of the outcry. And immigrant survivors of sex trafficking may choose against reporting sexual crimes committed against them because of the stigma associated with such crimes or for fear of criminalization of the victim. Still, at the crux of this “lack of reporting and cooperation” problem is the immigrant’s fear of deportation. Immigrant crime victims must understand the importance of reporting and cooperating with authorities because this is the only manner in which they can obtain a T or U Visa. They need only worry about resolution of the crime instead of deportation.