Immigrant Victims, Immigrant Accusers

The U visa program provides immigration status to noncitizen victims of crime, ensuring unauthorized immigrants do not become easy prey because they are too afraid to seek help from the police. But under the federal government’s structuring of the U visa program, a victim must also become an accuser to receive immigration benefits. Thus, the U visa implicates the rights of third parties: accused defendants. These defendants are often immigrants themselves who may be deported when U visa recipients level their accusations. Recent state court decisions have created complications in the program by permitting defendants to cross-examine accusers about their desire to obtain immigration benefits in exchange for testimony. Defendants in these cases, often male immigrants, have good reason to aggressively crossexamine their accusers in order to combat a system that perceives men of color as violent perpetrators and immigrant women as victims in need of protection. Because of these developments, immigrant victims face new obstacles when seeking 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.