When the Problem Is the Solution: Evaluating the Intersection Between the U Visa “Helpfulness” Requirement and No-Drop Prosecution Policies

Diane Mickelson *

When Congress introduced the U visa in 2000, it intended to create a program that not only protected immigrant victims of domestic violence from deportation, but also strengthened law enforcement’s ability to investigate crimes and encouraged victims to report the abuse. Traditionally, immigrant victims are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence and have been provided with few options to leave the relationship without risking their immigration status. However, while the U visa provides immigration protections to broad categories of victims, it contains a unique “helpfulness” requirement that compels victims to continually cooperate with law enforcement in order to receive the necessary certification. This requirement alone is not contradictory to the goals of the U visa, but particular problems arise in jurisdictions with no-drop prosecution policies. No-drop prosecution policies remove the ability of victims to request that their cases be dropped and the discretion of prosecutors to drop cases unless there is a clear lack of evidence. In these jurisdictions, if immigrant victims cease cooperation, they lose their eligibility to receive a U visa. However, where sufficient evidence exists, the case will continue to be tried and could result in the victim’s deportation along with her abuser. Therefore, to further the goals of the U visa, I recommend adopting the evidence-based standard of no-drop prosecution policies for the certification requirement in place of the current cooperation-based standard.

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   *      J.D. Candidate 2020, University of Richmond School of Law; B.S., 2013, Furman University. I would like to thank Professor Margaret Ivey for her invaluable guidance and support throughout the writing process. I would also like to thank the University of Richmond Law Review staff and editors for helping prepare this article for publication. Lastly, I would like to thank my family for their input and support

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