MINNEAPOLIS (Dec. 15, 2017) — The City Council has approved an ordinance formalizing the City’s process for responding to requests for certification of U or T nonimmigrant visa status—programs incorporated into federal law in 2000 as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act.
The visa programs protect individuals who have been victims of serious crimes and have been, are or will likely be helpful to law enforcement in the detection, investigation or prosecution of the crimes.
In creating the U and T nonimmigrant visas, Congress recognized both the importance of encouraging people, regardless of immigration status, to report and assist law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of crimes. Congress also recognized the particular vulnerability of immigrants, especially women and children, to being victims of trafficking and related crimes.
A requirement for U visa status is to obtain a certification from a qualified agency that the person has, is or will likely be helpful in the detection, investigation or prosecution of an eligible crime. The ordinance, authored by City Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden, formalizes the City’s process for handling these certification requests.
Specifically, the ordinance sets the expectation that certification requests will be processed within 30 days, with expedited requests—those for victims or family members involved in deportation proceedings—to be processed within seven days or as soon as reasonably possible if there is a delay to obtain off-site records or other good cause. The City will post information about the standard and expedited certification processes in multiple languages on the City’s website.
Immigration advocates have pushed for the ordinance to formalize the City’s process, set City expectations and to create an expedited track for people who are in removal proceedings. The ordinance is supported by the Minneapolis Police, City Attorney and the Civil Rights Department in recognition of the importance of encouraging cooperation between the City and the immigrant community in public safety.
The ordinance is one of several actions the City Council and Mayor have taken this year to support immigrants and refugees in Minneapolis.
“Immigrants, especially women and children, can be vulnerable to domestic violence, human trafficking and other serious crimes,” Glidden said. “It’s so important that there is a relationship of trust between law enforcement and community so that crime victims feel they can reach out to law enforcement to assist with the prosecution of criminal offenders. This makes all of us safer.”
“Everyone in Minneapolis is safer when victims of crime come forward with their stories, no matter their citizenship or immigration status,” said Mayor Betsy Hodges. “The federal government has recognized this fact for many years by offering U and T visas to non-citizens who cooperate with law enforcement, and the City of Minneapolis has an excellent record of processing U and T visas in a timely fashion. This new ordinance, authored by Council Vice President Glidden, creates more guarantees of efficient and thorough service for crime victims who are using vitally important tool to improve public safety for all of us.”