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U visa offers protection for some undocumented immigrants

Many immigrants in Corona, California, are in a vulnerable position due to their lack of documentation. The threat of deportation could make some unwilling to go to law enforcement about a violent crime, even if the act caused significant harm to themselves or to their children.

According to U.S. News, a federal law passed by Congress in 2000 should allow victims of some violent crimes to receive temporary legal status through a U visa if they report the crime and cooperate with law enforcement. Parents who apply on behalf of their children are eligible for a U visa, as well. There are only 10,000 of these visas eligible for approval annually, but those who file the form are placed on a waiting list and are protected while they wait for their paperwork to be processed.

Victims must acquire the application from the agency where they reported the crime, and it must be signed by an official. However, application of the law has been inconsistent. Some officials only provide the document if the victim is needed as a witness, and others delay or refuse it altogether. In some agencies, it is always made available.

To ensure that California residents are receiving the protection the law allows, KPBS News reports that the state will be enacting the Immigrant Victims of Crime Equity Act beginning Jan. 1, 2016. An applicant should not have to wait more than two weeks for the certification if there is already a deportation issue pending. Otherwise, the agency has 90 days to provide certification. All officials will be required to comply with the law, regardless of personal or political thoughts on the matter. 

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