Document Type


Publication Date



The U Visa program provides an immigration status to noncitizen victims of crime, which is essential to prevent unauthorized immigrants from being afraid to seek help from the police, and thus becoming easy prey for criminals. This visa falls into a category of immigration programs that grant benefits on the basis of victim status, rather than on family or employment connections to the United States. But the federal government structured the U Visa program so that in order to be protected as a victim, a person must also become an accuser. The U Visa thus implicates the rights of third parties, the accused defendants, who are themselves likely to be immigrants and who may be deported because of the accusations leveled by U Visa recipients. This mixing of roles between victim and accuser is problematic because recent state court decisions have permitted defendants to cross-examine accusers about their desire to obtain immigration benefits in exchange for testimony. Defendants in these cases, who are likely to be male immigrants, have good reason to take advantage of this defense strategy to fight back against a system that easily perceives men of color as violent perpetrators while immigrant women are more easily seen as victims in need of protection. But this adds a new obstacle for immigrant victims to obtain law enforcement protection and justice through criminal prosecution. The solution to these emerging problems is to separate the role of victim from the role of accuser as much as possible. This article suggests several models that might accomplish this goal.

Publication Citation

48 Mich. J. L. Reform ___ (forthcoming 2015).