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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Illegal Immigrants: More Hate Crime Victims Could Get Visas

Posted By on Thu, Mar 17, 2011 at 7:24 AM

click to enlarge uvisacover.jpg

Last November, three white males attacked two Mexicans in the Tenderloin neighborhood. Those men are now facing felony assault and hate crime charges -- a relatively unreported case that District Attorney George Gascón will detail today.

If there is a silver lining to this alleged hate crime, it's that the Mexican victims now have a possible path to become legal residents.

In this week's cover story, SF Weekly

tells readers about the U visa, an immigration benefit that's created a

buzz among immigrants in San Francisco, especially those who have been victims of violent

crimes.

The visa grants temporary legal status to undocumented immigrants

who have suffered from violent crimes, including domestic violence,

assault, and armed robbery. But there is a catch: They have to cooperate with law enforcement and help with the prosecution.

After three years, they will be eligible to apply for permanent residency.

The visa is an important breakthrough for illegal immigrants, who are

often too afraid to report legitimate crimes, for fear of being deported.

"You want people to come forward and participate in the

prosecution without any concerns," says Erica Derryck, spokeswoman for the DA.

"This is an opportunity so that there's no impediment for someone to report crime."

Our cover story details some recent cases where victims would qualify: In one the narrative, a San Francisco man was robbed while delivering pizza in Visitacion Valley in 1995 (there's no statute of limitations to the crimes that qualify for the visa).

We also told readers about a woman whose husband was killed by a bartender at the 500 Club. In this case, because it's murder, the woman and her children are eligible for the visa, even if they did not witness the crime.

To apply for the visa with the federal government, the victim must have a law-enforcement agency certify their application, verifying that the person had been the victim of a crime. They must also vouch for them, confirming the victims are assisting cops with the prosecution.

So far, the DA's office has signed off on 290 visas. The San Francisco Police Department estimates it signed 150 applications in 2010.

Read more about this in our cover story.

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Lauren Smiley

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