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Executive Action Expands Protection for Victims

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Executive Action Expands Protection for Victims

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Contributed by Koby Polaski, Senior Attorney

Included in Obama’s sweeping changes to our nation’s immigration system are two important provisions that apply to U and T visas. The U visa is available for certain crime victims in the United States, and the T visa is available to victims of human trafficking.

First, President Obama expanded the Department of Labor’s (DOL) U visa certification protocol to include three additional qualifying criminal activities. Specifically, the DOL will begin certifying U visa requests that include: extortion; fraud in foreign labor contracting; and forced labor. Additionally, the DOL will certify applications for trafficking victims seeking T visas when the Wage and Hour Division detects human trafficking activity in the course of its workplace investigations. The DOL will publish a Federal Register notice delegating authority to issue T visa certifications and will amend procedures and protocol to reflect these changes.

Obama’s changes also call for the establishment of an interagency working group addressing consistent enforcement of federal labor, employment, and labor laws, which will seek to ensure that federal enforcement authorities are not used to undermine worker protections. The changes also call for the implementation of strategies to strengthening workers for asserting workplace claims.

Finally, under a new prosecutorial discretion memo released last week, domestic violence is now classified as a significant misdemeanor. The memo contains a footnote instructing that in determining whether a crime is a significant misdemeanor, careful consideration should be taken in cases where the convicted individual was the victim of domestic violence. This indicates sensitivity to the fact that survivors of domestic violence are often arrested along with the perpetrator. Hopefully, under this guidance, ICE will not only help “perfect” crime victims.

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