New York, NY – Members of the Progressive Caucus have a long history of supporting the issuance of U visas, which protect undocumented people who are victims of certain crimes. The visas are a lifeline for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or trafficking who come forward to report crime. According to the Department of Investigation’s Office of the Inspector General for the NYPD (OIG-NYPD) report released on July 27, 2017, the NYPD receives more U visa certification requests than any other city agency, but lacks necessary internal standards and procedures consistent with federal guidelines. Current NYPD practices result in needless denials of qualified applicants.
This, compounded with the Trump administration’s inflammatory stance on immigration, can prevent undocumented immigrants from reporting crimes as they face the uncertainty of deportation. Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly defended New York City’s sanctuary city status, and has vowed to remain resilient in the face of the Trump administration’s threats to decrease federal funding for not cooperating with ICE officials. Now, more than ever, the NYPD must step up to protect the immigrants of New York City by changing the way U visas certification is handled, which could mean the difference between life or death for hundreds of undocumented victims, and bring greater transparency to an opaque process.
We, as progressive elected officials, support the Inspector General’s recommendations to the NYPD, which include (1) developing formal internal guidelines for certification evaluation; (2) publishing guidelines and U visa information; and (3) developing training on U visas for specialized units that often interact with immigrant communities. We believe doing so will improve NYPD relations with immigrant New Yorkers while making our city safer. We call on the NYPD to immediately respond to this report with tangible steps addressing the above recommendations, and work with us to protect immigrant New Yorkers victimized in our city from assailants and from deportation and detention to further reach our vision of New York as a sanctuary city.