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February 17, 2019

Restoring the Statutory Safety-Valve for Immigrant Crime Victims: Premium Processing for Interim U Visa Benefits

This Essay focuses on the U visa, a critical government program that has thus far failed to live up to its significant potential. Congress enacted the U visa to aid undocumented victims of serious crime and incentivize them to assist law enforcement without fear of deportation. The reality, however, is that noncitizens eligible for U status still languish in limbo for many years while remaining vulnerable to deportation and workplace exploitation. This is in large part due to the fact that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has never devoted sufficient resources to processing these cases. As a result, the potential benefits of the U visa remain underrealized and communities are left less safe. In an era of sustained focus on enforcement and increased instability within immigrant communities, the situation becomes ever more urgent. This Essay introduces and defends a simple administrative innovation that would dramatically improve the process: a premium processing route for interim approvals and employment authorization. Although our proposal cannot resolve all the underlying problems, it is pragmatic, easily implemented, and superior to the status quo.