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Senate and House Judiciary Committee Chairmen Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., slammed the Obama Administration’s management of the U visa program following findings of fraud and a new parole policy that exceeds its authority. The U visa program allows foreign nationals who are victims or witnesses of crime in the United States to remain here while assisting in the crime’s investigation and prosecution. But the Administration allowed fraudulent applications to be processed and exceeded the numerical program limits Congress set.

In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, the Chairmen wrote the U visa “is being exploited by those wishing to defraud the system and avoid deportation. For example, in May of 2016, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi announced the indictment of 11 individuals who were part of a conspiracy to submit fraudulent documents to USCIS in order to obtain U visas…[Plus according to] whistleblower reports to the Senate Judiciary Committee, instances of law enforcement officials improperly certifying U visa forms in exchange for cash and other bribes is a common occurrence.” 

The letter continued, “U visas are capped at 10,000 annually…[but] under an apparently unlawful USCIS policy, cases that would have otherwise been approved in the absence of the cap may receive “conditional approval” and a work authorization until U visas become available the following year. In some cases, despite no statutory authorization, the application itself may serve to halt deportation until it is adjudicated. Petitioners in foreign countries who apply for a U visa after the cap is exceeded, until now, remained abroad until their application was fully adjudicated. However, in August, USCIS announced its intent to implement a new “parole policy” under which eligible U visa petitioners who live abroad, along with their derivatives, can apply for parole and be admitted to the U.S. prior to adjudication. Such a policy has the potential to allow thousands of individuals the ability to wait for their adjudication results in the United States, during which time they could be granted work authorization and additional benefits.” 

The Chairmen said the new U visa blanket parole policy is “another example of the Obama Administration’s complete disregard for Congress’ constitutionally mandated role in developing immigration policy.” They demanded information on U visa certifications since 2009, the criteria used for certification, the steps taken to ensure the applications were valid, and any internal reports of U visa fraud.  

According to the Department’s latest data, it received 60,710 U visa applications in fiscal year 2016 and approved 17,937. It currently has a backlog 150,561 applications to be adjudicated.

Read Sen. Grassley’s press release.

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Updated: Fri, Jan 13th 2017 @ 2:10pm EST