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“Abuela” from Jane the Virgin

Pyrus Law Nov. 20, 2015

Oh my! It’s almost been 2 years since my last blog post- where has the time gone? Well in an attempt to revive my blog and create new content, I’ve decided to combine my expertise and knowledge in immigration law with one of my favorite after-work unwinding activities- watching TV. When it comes to fields I know nothing about such as: medicine, detective work, spies, etc. I always turn to the only exposure I have, my TV shows. Unfortunately, they don’t always get it right. In fact, in law school, I had a professor/judge, who was a consultant for the TV show, “Judging Amy”. He would tell us stories of errors in scripts that the writers, producers, powers that be all chose to keep in the script because it made for better TV. While it may be better TV it’s not the best source of actual information, so hopefully, I can clear some of that up.

To start us off, I thought it was only fitting that I write about the show that inspired this avenue of blogging, Jane the Virgin which currently plays on the CW and was recently added to Netflix. Jane Villanueva and her mother were both born in the US and are US citizens, but last year we found out her “Abuela” (grandmother) is undocumented. This has been a running storyline on the show. Last year Magda pushed Abuela down the stairs in an attempt to kill Abuela so Magda could keep her secret. As a result, Abuela was in the hospital in serious condition. When Abuela stabilized, she was scared to report the attempted murder to the police because of her immigration status.

This is when I started yelling at my TV: U-VISA!!!!

What is a U-Visa? A U-visa is a visa for victims of crimes who have helped in the investigation and prosecution of certain listed crimes. The U-Visa exists to encourage undocumented people to report crimes and is evidence of the preference of prosecuting these serious qualifying crimes over the enforcement of the undocumented immigration status of the victim.

To qualify for a U-Visa, you must meet certain criteria:

  1. Victim of a qualifying crime- Abuela was a victim of an attempted murder which is a qualifying crime.

  2. The victim must have suffered substantial physical or emotional injury- Abuela was seriously injured, there was concern that she main not survive, and would have the medical records to prove it. She also probably could have gotten a psychological evaluation to support an emotional injury.

  3. Have information about the crime- Abuela saw Magda push her down the stairs and she was the only witness. She had information about the crime.

  4. Helpful to law enforcement- Abuela did not report the crime! If she had told the police what had happened, her police report would satisfy this requirement. Of course, if they prosecuted Magda for the crime she would need to continue to be helpful and testify at the trial. Regardless, the police report could have been enough for Abuela to qualify for a U-Visa.

This could have been a perfect opportunity for a U-Visa, but unfortunately, Abuela missed out. U-Visas are actually very powerful tools because they allow lots of folks to legalize their status who otherwise would not be able to. However, the downside is the current U-Visa backlog is long… no one knows for certain how long, but practitioners estimate a successfully filed application today will take successful take 5-6 years to be granted! It’s a long wait but still a good option for some folks.

Luckily for Abuela, this season she’s decided to legalize her status through her daughter which will be the subject of another post another day.

For more information on U-Visas, visit USCIS’s page on U-Visas.