After the scandal at Miramonte Elementary School broke out last week, some undocumented parents of possible victims said they were afraid to come forward and risk deportation. What many aren't aware of is the existence of the U Visa, an option for immigrants who are victims of violence or abuse.
The majority of immigrants applying for U Visas are victims of domestic violence, but the application is open to anyone who has been a victim of a crime in the U.S. (Those who may have useful information for the police or who can assist with the investigation are also eligible.)
Immigration lawyer Jack Sung says that reporting the crime can be a certain, if complicated, path to getting papers.
"The process is basically like this," Sung explained. "You start with the investigation and then you get certification. You file the application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and you should get the actual status, normally, in six to 12 months, depending on how busy they are. And that is a temporary status."
Once they've received that temporary status, an immigrant with a U Visa can then apply for a green card, which they'll receive in another three to four years. Around 10,000 U Visas are granted each year.
Entire families may be eligible if one of their children is a victim.
Sung says that even if Miramonte parents fail to apply for U Visas, they’re not likely to be processed for deportation — they’re low-priority in the eyes of law enforcement.