US visas blocked by Trump for human trafficking victims

Sanwar Ali comment:

This is another way for Trump to reduce levels of immigration into the US. Is this fair and ethical? The law is there to protect these people.  Perhaps it is inevitable that Presidents will try to use their power to make it difficult to implement laws that they do not like.  Obama also tried to make changes using Executive Orders.

The Trump administration is blocking US visa access for human trafficking victims, according to a Bloomberg Law report. A suspension, issued by the US Labor Department, has stalled processing for US visa applications made by victims of human trafficking.

Head of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, Cheryl Stanton, announced in early May that her agency’s role in certifying US visas that grant temporary status to immigrants illegally trafficked to America, would be stopped.

According to the Bloomberg Law report, delays in processing visas could hinder White House efforts to tackle human trafficking. However, it could be viewed as a strategy to advance the Trump administration’s plans to cut the flow of undocumented immigrants entering the US.

Stanton has apparently revoked the authority of delegated personnel to approve US visa applications, creating a backlog of time-sensitive applications from across the country. It’s understood that Stanton has not yet signed a single application, despite them getting approval from regional offices and the Department of Labor (DOL).

US visa applications left idle for more than six weeks

Bloomberg Law reports that the suspension for processing US U visa applications, for victims of eight types of crimes uncovered in workplace investigations—including forced labor, extortion, and witness tampering – plus T visas, for trafficked workers, has been in place for more than six weeks.

‘Whether intentional or not, Stanton’s heightened review of agency field operations has entangled her in Trump administration US immigration policies that risk alienating her from both worker advocates and the White House just a few days shy of her two-month anniversary in office’, Bloomberg Law reports.

Co-director of the National Legal Advocacy Network, Chris Williams, said: “I certainly don’t think there’s a practice of granting these certifications too easily. They are very thorough investigations.”

“What’s baffling me is why a program that’s been working up until now has essentially drawn to a standstill,” Williams added.

In a statement, Stanton was guarded about the Wage and Hour Division’s future involvement in the US visa process.

She told Bloomberg Law: “As the new head of an agency, I am reviewing all the programs and processes administered by the Wage and Hour Division, in consultation with appropriate DOL agencies. I remain committed to strong enforcement of WHD laws using all resources efficiently, responsibly, and to the extent authorized.”

US T and U visas

The T and U US visa categories are typically reserved for immigrant workers who are willing to cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of a crime. Stanton risks hindering the Trump administration’s efforts to bring human trafficking perpetrators to justice by blocking US visa access for those co-operating with law enforcement.

President Donald Trump has targeted labor traffickers for tougher punishments as part of his law enforcement agenda and promised US visas to people who report perpetrators of human trafficking and other types of organized crime.

Trump reauthorized the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, the 2000 law that established U and T visas and designated certifying authority to the Labor Department.

Witnesses could be lost

Legal aid advocates and conservatives now fear that the suspension of processing US visa applications could lead to witnesses being lost and traffickers escaping jail sentences.

Director of policy and advocacy at the center-right National Immigration Forum, Jacinta Ma, said: “I don’t see this as a political issue. Everybody believes in solving crimes. We don’t believe that people should be trafficked. We understand that when somebody is undocumented they can potentially be exploited.”

“It’s going to be very difficult to access those witnesses who can tell you about serious crimes or trafficking without the U and T visas,” Ma added.

USCIS, which issues or rejects T and U visa applications once certified by the Wage and Hour Division and other agencies, has so far failed to provide any comment.

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