U Visas Approved for Client and Family
The U visa was designed to provide immigration status to the victims of particularly severe crimes. As many lawyers remain unaware of this visa, it has been utilized infrequently. My client was smuggled to the United States in the late 1990s in a cargo container on a large shipping boat. Many other immigrants were smuggled on the ship, also in cargo containers, and made the voyage from China with little food, water, and without sunlight. Two of the immigrants died during the voyage as a result of the inhuman conditions. The coast guard stopped the ship as it approached the port in Seattle where it intended to dock, and my client’s smuggler was arrested and turned over to the authorities. The U.S. Attorney’s office prosecuted my client’s smuggler and relied, in part, on the statements provided by my client and other immigrants who were willing to testify regarding the conditions on the ship that caused the deaths. My client came to my office a few years ago, and showed me a single business card from an agent in the “Anti-Smuggling Division” of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (The former agency which was rolled into the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11) and told me his story. As the U visa was almost entirely unknown at the time, it took me many months of writing letters and making phone calls to various government agencies as none wanted to accept responsibility for the filing of the U visa application. Unfortunately, the U visa requires that certain government agents actually sign the petition itself, so the victim of a crime, in this case alien smuggling, is unable to self-petition for a U visa. I spent many months writing and calling the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI (at the direction of the U.S. Attorney), and eventually was able to speak directly to the head of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle himself. He agreed to help me and asked me to write a letter to him explaining the process and filling out the necessary forms for his office. I recently received approval notices for my client’s U visa, for his wife, and for his children. His wife and children who currently live in China will be permitted to come to the United States and are awaiting interviews at their consulate. The entire family will be eligible to file green card applications after being in U visa status for 3 full years. After his family arrives in the U.S. I intend to file a motion to reopen and terminate my client’s old deportation case in immigration court so that his record will no longer indicate that he has been ordered deported from the U.S.