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U-Visa: Illegal Immigrants Become Legal Residents Via Crime Victimization 

Wednesday, Mar 16 2011
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Many advocates express concern that the woeful economy and anti-immigrant zeitgeist will cause lawmakers to more closely scrutinize the program. "We do worry, because we do believe the U visa has opened a lot of doors for people, and given some nice benefits to people who wholly deserve it," says Christopher Martinez of Catholic Charities. "But there's going to be forces out there that say this is too generous."

Meanwhile, Robert Uy, a staff attorney at Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach in San Francisco, thinks the visa's law-and-order goal will save it. "Even the most conservative people tend to want people who are committing crimes to be put behind bars," he says.

Silva would likely win over many conservative critics. He attributes his visa to an intervention of God through the U.S. government. He talks about his and his wife's new legal status with the zeal of a convert: "We can now be all that we can be." He got his driver's license. He plans to travel back to Brazil for the first time in 20 years to see his family.

Earlier this month, a Seventh-Day Adventist church in Jacksonville, Fla., offered Silva a position as assistant pastor. He had dreamed about attending theology school for years, but didn't have the immigration papers to do it in good conscience. He accepted. Now he'll have a church full of congregants, many of them immigrants, to whom he can preach the gospel — be it of a forgiving God, or a forgiving visa.

About The Author

Lauren Smiley

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