Immigration Legal Remedies For Immigrant Crime Victims

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There are roughly 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States and Susan Schreiber, a field attorney of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., held a presentation in East Moline for local law enforcement and social workers about the rights of immigrants themselves and immigration law.  The two-hour presentation touched on barriers that immigrant crime victims face, the mechanisms of legal immigration that are in
place and the long waiting periods that lead to people to enter the country illegally.  “Congress was talking about comprehensive immigration reform because with the current system many have no chance at legal status,” Schreiber said.She noted that many immigrants are afraid of law enforcement and reporting crimes because of lack status making them more vulnerable to crime. The lawyer explained the immigration law terminology that only allows for two kinds of people, U.S. citizens and aliens. According to legal terminology, U.S. Citizenship is obtained by birth in the United States, by acquisition (born abroad), by derivation (citizen’s child is a permanent resident) and by naturalization.Definitions for what is an immigrant and a non-immigrant were given, who enforces immigration law, “the alphabet soup” of different visas and even how long the process takes for someone to obtain a visa.  Schreiber talked about the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, which allows for abused spouses of U.S. Citizens or Legal Permanent Residents to self- petition for residency without having to rely on the abusing spouse.  Under the VAWA, abused children, a non-abused spouse whose child has been abused by the U.S. Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident (even if the child is not related to the abuser), an abused “intended spouse”, and even abused parents of U.S. Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents can all self-petition under these circumstances.
Example case studies were given that helped understand how in some instances there may be a way for some immigrants and their families to obtain legal status if they were victims of certain crimes.
Schreiber mentioned how in the 80s most of her clients used to be married males who had families back in Mexico whom they returned to after working and saving money and that since the U.S. border became more secure a “locking people in” phenomenon occurred and now they are bringing their families and not going back.
“Current [legal] waits for family reunification are as long as twenty-two years,” she said.
After remaining neutral throughout the session, Schreiber ended the session with her opinion of the immigration issue. “It’s hard not to have an opinion on immigration policy,” she said. “A group of people support comprehensive immigration reform. In May, Congress looked at an enforcement only policy.”
“Most people who are undocumented, the law doesn’t give them anything. While you’re waiting for legal status, you don’t have a legal status,” she said.

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