Chicago committee addresses concerns over CPD's handling of U Visa requests

The Chicago Committee for Immigrant and Refugee Rights held a crucial hearing on Tuesday with representatives from the Chicago Law Department and city residents to address serious concerns about the Chicago Police Department's handling of U Visa requests, a program designed to help undocumented crime victims gain a path to citizenship.

Alderman Raymond Lopez noted that CPD representatives did not attend the meeting, although they were supposed to.

The handling issue arose from findings by Injustice Watch, an advocacy group, which discovered that two years ago, CPD denied hundreds of U Visa certification requests from undocumented crime victims. The denials were attributed to reasons that allegedly conflicted with federal certification standards and, in some cases, violated state law.

A U Visa provides temporary legal status and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have been victims of certain crimes and who are deemed helpful or likely to be helpful to law enforcement. Established by Congress in 2000, the visa program aims to encourage undocumented immigrants to report crimes and assist law enforcement in better serving immigrant communities.

Last year, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul demanded all information related to the more than 800 denials acknowledged by CPD.

Alderman Lopez emphasized that the process still lacks transparency and efficiency.

"In a time span where New York and LA denied 150 and 350, respectively, and we denied over 800. I think there’s something seriously wrong with that equation," Lopez said.

Alderman Andrew Vasquez, Chairman of the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Committee, responded, "I think through the chair, we will submit questions to CPD to find out what the numbers are and see if there's a month-to-month reporting. If we don't get those answers, I look forward to partnering with you to change it from resolution to ordinance to get some reporting."

A resolution was passed for the Chicago Police, the Fire Department, and the immigrant rights community to come together for a public hearing to explain the reasons behind the U Visa denials. The resolution will be voted on during the regular July City Council meeting, at which time a date for the hearing will be decided.