The 10,000 person cap for the U Visa, a visa for immigrants designed to give victims of physical or mental abuse temporary legal status and work eligibility for four years, has been reached this year. This is the third consecutive year the visa has reached its cap, and never has the cap been reached this soon. Visas will not begin to be issued again until the new fiscal year begins on October 1, which poses a serious problem for those who will not speak out against their attacker until they can obtain the visa.
The visa provides protection to immigrants who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assaults: women who are abused by their husbands can go to the police without fear of their legal status and the threat of being deported. This also ensures that those who are committing the crimes are reported.
In May, the Senate was successful in passing a new Violence Against Women Act that would raise the U visa annual quota from 10,000 to 15,000. The bill also offered protection for gay, bisexual, or transgender immigrant victims. However, the version of VAWA that the House pushed through does not raise the cap, does not offer new protections, and eliminates the opportunity for U visa holders to gain permanent residency after three years.
Media Resources: New York Times 9/3/12; Bradenton Herald 8/24/12