At North County Immigration for many years, we have come to learn of numerous instances and reports of discrimination against immigrants by local law enforcement agencies concerning their unwillingness to help endorse certification attesting to these immigrant’s helpfulness in investigations where the immigrant has suffered as a result of certain crimes committed against them.  These certifications are a mandatory aspect for Immigrants who have been victims of certain crimes seeking a U Visa.

Several days ago an important bill was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown that hopefully will put an end to these frequent reports of discrimination and uncooperative law enforcement.  The Los Angeles Times reported that Governor Brown signed SB 674, a state bill that could meaningfully impact the ability of some undocumented crime victims to obtain immigration relief in the form of the U Visa if they were helpful to law enforcement.

Federal immigration law permits noncitizen to apply for a U visa if they were the victims of certain criminal activity, suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result, and show a requisite level of helpfulness to law enforcement in the detection, investigation or prosecution of the crime.  However, to meet a threshold showing of helpfulness, federal law requires U visa applicants to obtain a certification from law enforcement attesting to the applicant’s helpfulness.  Although the certification doesn’t guarantee the applicant will receive the U Visa, the application will be outright rejected if it is not included.

SB 674, sponsored by State Senator Kevin de Leon, requires, upon request, that eligible law enforcement agencies provide U visa certifications to immigrant crime victims who have been helpful, are being helpful, or are likely to be helpful in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of certain crimes.  The bill also sets time limits on law enforcement agencies’ response times to requests for U visa certification, requiring certifiers to process certification requests within 90 days in cases where applicants are not in removal proceedings, and 14 days where removal proceedings have begun.  The Bill also contains reporting requirements.  While we have had success with local law enforcement to obtain certifications for our clients, we at North County Immigration are thrilled to have the California legislature and the Governor take this important step to end the possibility of social discrimination by the agencies in determining whether to sign or not sign.