Jorge Garcia of Los Angeles, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, was eligible for a little-known benefit from the U.S. government. the Los Angeles Times says. As a crime victim who cooperated with law enforcement, he was able to apply for a visa that would grant him temporary legal status in the U.S. Nearly a year after submitting his application, Garcia hasn’t received a response from the government. Congress created the “U-visa” in 2000 to bolster law enforcement’s ability to investigate and prosecute certain crimes while offering protection to the victims. After an eight-year delay, the government issued the first U-visa last summer.
Through the end of 2008, 65 such visas had been issued, although about 13,300 people have filed applications. Twenty have been denied. “They are dragging their heels,” said Alan Diamante, an immigration attorney. “These people are not a priority.” They should be a priority because the visa is an incentive for victims to come forward and assist law enforcement, he said. Federation for American Immigration Reform spokesman Ira Mehlman said the visas shouldn’t exist and that victims of crime should cooperate with police regardless of what they might receive. “You shouldn’t have to bribe somebody to come forward,” he said. “Being a victim of a crime shouldn’t be your ticket to stay in the United States.”