AUSTIN (KXAN) — U Nonimmigrant Visas, also known as U-Visas, were implemented in 2000 as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. It allows immigrant victims of crime to stay in the United States for up to four years and makes their family members eligible to apply for a green card.
“It is really a key role that CPS plays in protecting immigrant children who are abused and neglected,” Edna Yang, the assistant deputy director at American Gateways said. CPS made the decision to stop issuing U-Visas in April, but Yang says her office, one of the largest immigration legal services providers in Texas, was not previously notified about the policy change. “The fact that they are stopping these certifications means that there are thousands of children that won’t get an immigration benefit and won’t get protection that they really deserve.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Family Protective Services said the decision was part of a regular review and has nothing to do with the issue of immigration. They said DFPS simply determined that there were other more appropriate law enforcement agencies to issue the certifications. While other agencies are eligible to issue the Vias, none of those agencies have done so in Texas. From 2010 to 2016, DFPS said they issued fewer than 50 U-Visas in Texas, and denied a total of 22.
“It is really disturbing because they didn’t talk to any of the community organizations that work with immigrant children to discuss what their issues with the certification process were and why they had decided to stop doing this,” explained Yang.
Gov. Greg Abbott has vowed to fix the broken CPS system when lawmakers return to Austin in January. Recently Abbott added $150 million and 800 more employees to the agency.
“We took a first step, and there will be more steps that we take during the session to continue this,” Abbott said. “We will find out the full extent to which we do need to provide more funding because we don’t want to just paste over the problem. We want to truly solve the problem. But it’s more than money, it’s using the right strategies to make sure our children are kept as safe as possible.”
Yang, however, says the children in Texas cannot wait until lawmakers act during the legislative session. She says the issue needs to be addressed immediately.
“The ones that we see in our office are often times victims of child abuse, severe child abuse, sexual abuse of a minor,” Yang said. “They may be subject to deportation in returning to a home where they don’t have anyone who can care for them, or returning to a country where they don’t have any family either, and so that makes it more difficult for them.”