Immigration Relief for Victims of Certain Crimes
By Anish Vashistha
Los Angeles , California


One of the reasons that the new immigration law that will soon go into effect in Arizona has been viewed as controversial is its direct conflict with the Congressional policy to protect immigrant victims of crime.

In the year 2000, Congress passed two laws that in part protect noncitizens who were victims of crimes in the Unites States. These laws were the “Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act” and the “Violence Against Women Act.” These laws specifically address protections for noncitizens who are victims of certain types of crimes in the United States.

These protections were necessary because of Congress’ findings that many immigrant victims of crimes were too fearful to report to the police the crimes committed against them. This fear was based on many of the victims not having proper legal status in the United States.

For many victims, assistance to the police in catching the criminals that harmed them meant the victims being referred to immigration authorities for deportation. The result was a class of illegal-immigrant victims who could continuously be easily targeted by criminals because the criminals knew that the victims were simply too scared to report the crimes to the police.

Congress solution to this widespread problem was to provide immigration benefits to immigrant victims of crimes who could show that they were victims of crime, were substantially physically or mentally harmed by the crime perpetrated against them, reported the crime to the police, and were cooperative in the investigation of the crime and/or prosecution of the perpetrator. If these requirements are met, then almost all prior immigration violations can be waived, and the victim can be granted legal status in the United States with the possibility of obtaining a Green Card four years thereafter.

Most police departments, whether local, state, or federal, are aware of the victim-of-crime immigration benefits and use the benefits as incentives to have immigrant victims come forward and assist the police in catching the perpetrators.

Within the Pakistani community, there are many such illegal-immigrant victims of crime. Such victimization may have occurred while an individual was working at a convenience store and was robbed at gunpoint, was at home and was attacked violently and sometimes sexually by a family member, or was new in the United States and was the subject of extortion or exploitation. However, several of these victims either have feared reporting their victimization or have not been made aware that they could be granted legal status for their assistance to the police in catching the criminals who victimized them. Fortunately, one can receive victim-of-crime immigration benefits regardless of when the criminal activity occurred.

However, not all crimes meet the requirements for the immigration benefits, and not all police departments freely give the necessary certification for one to obtain the immigration benefits. Therefore, a victim of a crime in the United States should obtain legal counsel who is skilled in such cases to ensure that they receive the immigration benefits that Congress specifically designed for them.

(The author, Anish Vashistha, is a licensed attorney with a nationwide immigration-law practice. He is a graduate from Georgetown University Law Center and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He has helped several Pakistani nationals obtain or maintain legal status in the United States. He may be contacted toll-free at 1 (866) 433-7016, by email at, or on the web at


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.