SB 144 — Victims and Witnesses – U Nonimmigrant Status – Certification of Victim Helpfulness

Committee: Senate Judicial Proceedings

Position: SUPPORT

The Maryland Catholic Conference (“Conference”) represents the public policy interests of the three Roman Catholic (arch)dioceses serving Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington. 

Senate Bill 144 streamlines the process by which the state certifies a crime victim’s petition for U Nonimmigrant Status, or a U-Visa.  A person is eligible for a U-Visa if he or she is a noncitizen victim of a range of federally designated crimes and is helpful to law enforcement agencies in the investigation or prosecution of that crime.  If a person meets this criteria, the state has ninety days to certify the petition, or fourteen days if the person is in removal proceedings.  State certification is one part of a person’s U-Visa application package; however, without it, the person’s petition will be denied. 

The Conference supports both humane and just immigration policies and keeping our communities safe. Senate Bill 144 is uniquely beneficial to different players in the sometimes fraught and contentious immigration and public safety arenas.  It first provides consistency among all jurisdictions with regards to the timeline for certification as well as requiring certification be done if the crime victim is helpful.  It also helps establish greater trust between law enforcement officials and immigrant communities, leading to a greater rate of solving crimes and subsequently making communities safer.  Immigrant communities are often marginalized due to a myriad of factors, including poverty, language barriers, unfamiliarity with local laws, or a distrust of law enforcement and immigration officials.  This legislation lessens the fear of deportation and minimizes potential discrimination due to one’s immigration status. 

A victim of crime is already a vulnerable individual.  A non-citizen victim of crime, even more so.  It is incredibly unfortunate and heartbreaking for a victim of often serious crime to have to decide whether to help in solving that crime or potentially being separated from their families.

The Conference appreciates your consideration and, for these reasons, respectfully requests a favorable report on Senate Bill 144.