I am a woman from Chiapas, Mexico, 45 years old and have lived in the U.S. for 17 years. I was working as a clerk in a store in Lake Worth, with another Mexican woman, when one afternoon two men entered with pistols. One grabbed my workmate, threw her to the floor face down and bound her hands behind her back with a plastic zip tie. The second man jumped the counter and did the same to me. Me and my workmate were both terrified.
The second man emptied the cash register, grabbed jewelry on display and then saw a lock box under the counter. He put the gun to my head and demanded I give him the key, or he would kill me. I told him I didn’t have the key, only the owner did. He screamed at me and threatened me some more with the gun to my head. He finally gave up; they shoved cloths into the mouths of me and my workmate and escaped. We were discovered by a customer an hour later.
When the police came, they asked me if I was willing to look at a book full of photographs of men who were known to be criminals. I was told by some people that it would be dangerous because if the police caught him, he might someday be out of jail and seek revenge against me. But there had been various armed robberies like that in the area. We weren’t the only victims; some people who were citizens were victimized too. I didn’t want those two criminals to come back and terrify us or anyone else again. I did what the police asked me to do.
I looked at dozens of photographs but recognized him the moment I saw him again. It turned out he had committed a number of crimes. The police found him and arrested him. The last I heard he was in jail and would probably go to prison.
It was only after this all happened that I learned of the existence of U-visas. I now have an attorney who has applied for me. A person who is undocumented, like me, who helps police solve a crime and put criminals in prison, can receive protection from deportation if they receive a U-visa. Many more immigrants would cooperate with police to solve crimes if they knew about U-visas. I myself was at one point in my life the victim of domestic abuse. I was beaten by my partner numerous times. If I had known about the U-visa I would have gone to the police. Instead, just like many other immigrant women, I put up with behavior that could have left me badly injured or even dead.
Police need to use U-visas and also make sure that immigrants know U-visas exist. Everyone in the community, citizens and immigrants, will be safer.