Domestic abuse and human trafficking exist throughout our society, but immigrant women are often particularly vulnerable to these horrendous crimes. I am an immigration attorney and have seen too many of these cases. Sometimes they have suffered physical and mental abuse for years because they won’t contact the police, afraid of being reported to immigration agents, deported and separated from their children. Sometimes it goes on so long they end up dead.

But those women are not the only victims of crime in immigrant communities. Local police will tell you that immigrants have more often been the victims of crimes than the perpetrators. Criminals have always figured that immigrants would be afraid to report crimes against them to the police because they feared being turned over to immigration agents.  In certain neighborhoods crime waves occurred without the local authorities ever being informed. Immigrants lived in fear and the criminals flourished, which put all the residents of those cities in danger. It is a phenomenon that has frustrated police all over the country.

That can be addressed with U-visas. An immigrant who is willing to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to bring a criminal to justice can be issued a U-visa, which protects that person from being detained and possibly deported by immigration authorities. In the case of women suffering domestic abuse, the U-visa allows them to report the crime to police rather than live in silence and fear. Also, without the protection of a U-visa a woman who has reported her husband for domestic abuse-leading to his deportation-can end up being deported back to the very place her husband now finds himself, which puts her life in danger. I have represented numerous immigrant women who were saved from serious ongoing abuse-sometimes life threatening abuse-by the implementation of U-visas.

In Palm Beach County, where I work, relations and cooperation between immigrants and law enforcement have improved tremendously and made us all safer, in part by the use of these protective visas.

The use of U-visas is a smart and humane way for Florida law enforcement to reduce crime and human suffering. Local residents should press their police for the greater use of U-visas. They are good for all of us.