Thursday, April 5, 2007

U.S. Challenged on Immigrant Women's Legal Limbo

(WOMENSENEWS)--Advocates for immigrant women who are victims of domestic violence and applying for visas have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security.

The suit on behalf of immigrants nationwide presses the government to enact regulations needed to implement the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, passed in 2000. That law provides that undocumented immigrant victims of certain violent crimes, including domestic violence, may apply for and receive a visa--called a U-visa--after cooperating with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime against them. After maintaining a U-visa for three years, the victim can then apply for a "green card" which provides for lawful residence in the U.S on humanitarian grounds.

"We hope the mere filing of the lawsuit will light a fire under the Department of Homeland Security," says Peter Schey, president and executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and lead counsel in the case. "But if not, we're prepared to move ahead."

To date, not a single U-visa has been granted. That's because the federal government has yet to issue the regulations necessary to implement the law, leaving the intended beneficiaries in a state of uncertainty.

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