The Unexpected

Angy Rivera came to the United States when she was 4 years old and began living in New York City. As if her life as an illegal immigrant child wasn’t challenging enough, Angy was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend. Despite her fear of the unknown, Angy helped authorities with the investigation that eventually led to the man’s imprisonment and conviction. Not only did she manage to free herself from abuse, but her cooperation qualified her for a visa to remain in the United States.

Part of President Obama’s Deferred Action plan, victims of serious crimes qualify for this crime victims visa. This means that immigrants have more than one pathway to remain in the country. Thousands of immigrants have applied to remain temporarily for work, while others are discovering that they may be able to avoid deportation if they were the victim of a serious crime while visiting the United States.

Deferred Action has most obviously allowed thousands of immigrants to seek and maintain gainful employment. But it has also prompted immigrants to seek legal assistance. They are beginning to learn and understand their rights. They can consider the many possibilities that, before Deferred Action, were merely dreams. Angy found out about the crime victims visa, the U-Visa, when she met with a lawyer at Atlas: DIY, a nonprofit organization in New York City that works with young immigrants.

We must keep in mind that Angy did what thousands of immigrants wouldn’t think of doing, for fear that it would lead to their exposure. “Many illegal immigrants are so fearful of contact with the authorities, or thwarted by language and economic barriers, that they live in a kind of isolation that often prevents them from taking advantage of opportunities or services to which they are entitled under the law.” She risked her freedom, her opportunities, her dreams. In the end, she was granted a very unexpected chance to remain in the country she fought so hard to get to.

Angy, now 22 years old, came to the United States from Colombia. Until finding out about the U-Visa, Angy was forced to live in fear of deportation. She explains, “this whole time I had been in the system already and no one had said anything to me or my mom.” It is our job, as future lawyers, to assure that word is getting out and that immigrants are fully informed about their opportunities. After all, we do live in the “land of opportunity.”

The New York Times 

4 comments

  1. This is a promising story. I think it is appropriate that this woman has been given the opportunity to live legally in the United States. I agree with Amanda that it is the job of attorneys to inform immigrants of their rights, and it is nice to hear, as Amanda states, that immigrants in the United States are becoming more cognizant of their rights. Unfortunately, I can foresee potential abuse of this Deferred Action Plan, where an illegal immigrant would lie about being the victim of a serious crime to gain a visa. However, I am sure our government will have a detailed screening process, and stories like this make the plan seem worthwhile. The amount of illegal immigrants living in this country is in the millions; their presence is inevitable. Amanda notes that this is the land of opportunity. It is also a land where the government is supposed to protect its people. Here, I think we got it right. An immigrant, even an illegal immigrant, should not fear contacting authorities after being the victim of a serious crime.

  2. I truly believe that the Deferred Action Plan is promising. We need to protect everyone who is on our land from crime, no matter what their immigration status may be. If we fail, and they fall victim to crime, they should not be punished by being deported when reporting the crime. Who would want to come to the United States if they can fall victim to a brutal crime and get deported the next day? This would severely deter illegal immigrants from contacting the police and getting the help they need. It also will not help our country decrease its crime rate. If anything, this will increase it, because so many crimes are going unreported and so many perpetrators are getting away with heinous acts. I agree with Patrick that along with the benefits that come with this plan, there is also a very large chance of abuse. The danger of an illegal immigrant lying about being a victim of a serious crime is very real. This danger increases as the number of illegal immigrants in our country rises. But, at the same time, there are restrictions to the Deferred Action Plan. The crime must be a “serious crime” and there is obviously an investigation by the government. If the government finds a person to be a true victim of a crime, then the chances are they were.

  3. I commend Angy Rivera for being so brave and standing up to her attacker despite the fact that she could have been deported. Many U.S. citizens are not this brave.
    I agree with Amanda, that it is important that these victims, even if they are illegal immigrants, are educated about their rights. Even though I believe the U.S. Government needs to do more about the increase in illegal immigrants in our country, I still think the Deferred Action Plan is a good idea because these victims, like Angy, are helping U.S. authorities catch and convict criminals. I agree with Pat, in that the U.S. Government does have to look out for illegal immigrants that will make false claims in order to be covered by the Plan. Therefore, it is important that the U.S. Government has appropriate guidelines and procedures in place in order to maintain the Plan’s effectiveness.

  4. This article presents two very different reactions in me. On one hand, I am very impressed and happy that Angy was able to report the heinous crimes that were committed against her. It is important to every person regardless of their immigration status to be protected. However, the deferred action plan seems like it goes too far for me. While I agree that illegal immigrant should not live in fear that they will be deported if they report a crime, giving them a visa for doing so leaves too much room for abuse. I think the better course of action will be to give the illegal immigrants reporting a crime an exemption or immunity when reporting a crime. There is too big of a risk of abuse if, like Patrick said, an immigrant fabricated a story in order to get a short cut to getting a visa. It is important to inform all people living in the United States, legally or illegally, of their rights, however with more knowledge of the system, there is the potential for the finding of loopholes in the system.

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