Office of Children and Family Services

 

NEWS
For Immediate Release: 8/16/2018

Contact: Press Office

Email: press@ocfs.ny.gov

Phone: 518-402-3130

Governor Cuomo Issues New Guidance To Protect Undocumented Immigrants Who Are Crime Victims

State Investigative Agencies, Including State Police, Division of Human Rights, and Department of Labor, Now Authorized to Certify or Endorse Non-Citizen U and T Visa Applications 
 
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced new guidance to state investigative agencies and localities to protect undocumented immigrants who are the victims of human trafficking and other crimes committed in New York State. State and local agencies can now certify or endorse non-citizen U and T visa applications, which provide much-needed protection for undocumented New Yorkers by assisting vulnerable crime victims in obtaining humanitarian visas.

"Washington's relentless assault on undocumented immigrants has had a deliberate, chilling impact on migrant communities, causing fear and distrust of law enforcement agencies, even when individuals need them the most," Governor Cuomo said. "With these new guidelines, New York is fighting back against these unconscionable acts, ensuring that crime victims get the assistance they need and that a person's immigration status never stands in the way of justice."

"Immigrants who are victims of human trafficking and other crimes should be protected, and we're working to ensure their safety here in New York," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "As the Trump administration continues its assault on immigrant children and families, we will not stop fighting to secure their rights in New York State. These guidelines will allow agencies to assist immigrant New Yorkers who are victims of crimes, and provide the services they need to seek justice and ensure their safety."

U and T visas offer victims immigration relief and strengthen investigators' ability to effectively investigate and pursue criminal and civil prosecution of qualifying crimes and human trafficking, including child and adult protective cases that involve non-citizen children or family members. U and T visas also provide protections for non-citizen victims of qualifying crimes which include human trafficking or crimes related to child abuse, adult abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, and others. Certain family members may also qualify for the protections offered by the visas.

As the agency on the forefront of immigration issues in the state, the Department of State's Office for New Americans has coordinated first-hand training to state agencies that interact with immigrant victims of crimes and have the authority to issue U certifications or T endorsements, including the State Police, Division of Human Rights, and the Department of Labor. In addition to its work with these agencies and its regular outreach to immigrant communities, ONA has worked with the Office of Children and Family Services to develop guidelines and training in issuing U certifications and/or T endorsements for social services officials at the local level.

Throughout his administration, Governor Cuomo has been committed to this initiative and has long recognized such Visas are particularly powerful tools for agencies tasked with enforcing laws that protect vulnerable, undocumented New Yorkers. In 2016, he directed the Office of Children and Family Services, through its oversight of local departments of social services, to advise districts of their responsibility as the investigating entities to certify these important Visas, as provided for in law. Within months of his inauguration in 2011, Governor Cuomo directed the New York State Department of Labor to certify such Visas in agency investigations for claimants and witnesses who met certain criteria and demonstrated that they had been victims of qualifying crimes. That same year, to help detect and prosecute crimes, the Governor also directed the New York State Police and the Division of Human Rights to establish official protocols and begin receiving and processing such Visa certifications for claimants, victims, and witnesses.

As a partner in the effort to protect immigrant families from crime and exploitation, the New York State Department of Labor receives and investigates complaints of unsafe working conditions, unlawful practices and wage theft. Every worker complaint that is reported to the state is investigated. If the crime has a nexus to an immigrant victim's employment, the State Department of Labor may issue a certification to support their visa application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, "New York State stands in support of all immigrant families and individuals that seek a safe harbor on our shores. Many of these immigrants are running from life-threatening conditions, and it is absolutely abhorrent that the Trump administration continues to take hostile actions against these survivors of violence. New York State has and will continue to support to all immigrants and provide necessary legal assistance to those seeking refuge in our state."

Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said
, "New York State will not tolerate the theft of workers' wages, dignity or their rights. U and T visas are powerful tools we use to encourage immigrants to report crimes committed by unscrupulous employers or those who would traffic individuals to exploit them for their labor."

Acting OCFS Commissioner Sheila J. Poole said, "Immigrant children and families have a right to the same protections that all New York families enjoy. OCFS is proud to be a partner in extending a helping hand to victims who need protection. By providing guidance and training to social services workers statewide, we can identify these vulnerable citizens and help them get the protection they deserve."