Erica Pearson of the NY Daily News wrote an excellent article today on the ordeal of our client, Zoila Figueroa. The story touches on how the U Visa legislation–designed to protect undocumented immigrants who have been victims of serious crimes–arbitrarily fails to protect thousands of immigrants.
Two excerpts below follow:
For three days, a pregnant Salvadoran woman was held captive in a mobile home in the Texas borderland, her dreams of reuniting with her family on Long Island replaced by fear of violent death.
“They were threatening me with a gun, pointed right to my stomach,” Zoila Figueroa said of the two men who abducted her after she sneaked across the U.S.-Mexico border near Hidalgo, Tex., in March 2012.
“They threatened me. They said if my husband didn’t pay ransom they were going to take out my baby. They were going to take out the baby alive and then they were going to kill me.”
But while Figueroa’s experience seems to make her a textbook example of a victim who would qualify for a “U” visa, her case has come to symbolize the arbitrary nature of the program, which requires police or prosecutors to sign a certificate proving that the victim has cooperated with investigators.
She has cooperated extensively with authorities in Hidalgo County, Tex., but they have refused to approve the needed paperwork — leaving her in danger of being deported. She must check in with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency on Thursday .
“This is a perfect example of how someone is not being protected even though they need it,” said her lawyer, Bryan Johnson.