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Some Virginia Police Departments Restrict U visa Certifications, According to Investigation

The Center for Investigative Reporting released a report this month that shows some police departments in Virginia create barriers for immigrants to apply for a U visa. The investigation looked into how U visa applications were handled in 10 states with the largest immigrant populations. 

A U visa is meant to shield immigrants from deportation, if they’ve been helpful in a police investigation. The aim of the federal program is  to improve public safety and build trust between the immigrant community and law enforcement. 

But some police agencies either refuse to participate or limit a victim’s eligibility for the program. The investigation highlights Herndon, Chesapeake and Leesburg Police Departments as well as The Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney as jurisdictions that only accepts U visa requests in closed cases or if they think the crime will be solved, which is more than what the federal program requires. 

That’s a problem, says Bryce Robertson an immigration attorney in Richmond. 

“It harms the communication or the cooperation that individuals would otherwise have with police prematurely,” Robertson said. 

Robertson said he’s seen other jurisdiction in the state create barriers to U visa request applications as well. 

“It seems that some law enforcement agencies are willing to interrupt this flow of communication or cooperation and deny individuals who would otherwise be eligible for U visa certification,” he said. 

The Arlington District Attorney’s office told The Center for Investigative Reporting that there’s concern that the visa will be used against them by the defense counsel. The office did not respond to VPM’s request for comment. 

Herndon Police also did not respond to a request for comment. 

A spokesman for the Chesapeake Police Department denied the agency has any policies that go above and behind the program’s requirements. 

ALeesburg police spokesman said every U visa request is considered on a case-by-case basis.