By: Caroline Smiley DiMaio, FWU Attorney

The Farmworker Unit has successfully obtained immigration relief for several child crime victims and their migrant farmworker families in recent months.  Assisting immigrant victims of crime and human trafficking has long been a cornerstone of the Farmworker Unit’s advocacy, and recent cases involving child victims highlight the vulnerability of the children of migrant and seasonal farmworkers to violent and exploitative crime.

The U visa was created by an act of Congress in 2000 to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, and other crimes while offering protection to victims of such crimes and to encourage law enforcement officials to better serve immigrant crime victims. The U visa grants temporary lawful status to immigrant victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. Undocumented individuals are at increased risk of becoming victims of crime, yet are less likely to report them.  The U visa gives these victims and their families status in the United States so they can cooperate with law enforcement without the fear of being deported. Certain family members of the crime victim are eligible for visas as well.  U visa recipients are eligible to apply for green cards after three years.

Children of migrant farmworker families, particularly those who are undocumented, are at increased risk of labor exploitation, sexual abuse, and violent crimes. Farmworker housing is often hidden from public view making it vulnerable to crime and difficult for service providers to access. Lack of reliable child care means that parents often must choose between taking their children to work in the dangerous fields or leaving them insufficiently supervised.  If you know a farmworker adult or youth that has been the victim of a crime, we are available to speak with him or her. Our toll-free intake line is 1.800.777.5869. Our services are free and confidential. Our staff is bilingual in English and Spanish, and we have interpretation services for any other language.

Beyond immigration assistance, the Farmworker Unit connects immigrant crime victims with a range of services including victim advocacy, case management, and physical and mental health care to help victims and their families put their lives back together.