Safety and Access for Immigrant Victims
In June 2018, the Washington state legislature passed into effect the Safety and Access for Immigrant Victims Act (RCW 7.98), regarding U visa certifications and T visa declarations. Through this legislation, certifying agencies (identified as law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, administrative judges, hearing offices, or other authorities that have responsibility for the investigation and prosecution of criminal activity) to:
- Designate a certifying official within their respective agency;
- Respond to U and T visa certification requests within 90 days; unless the victim is in federal immigration removal proceedings in which the response is to be within 14 days
- Develop a language access protocol;
- Provide written documentation annually to the Department of Commerce Office of Crime Victim Advocacy (OCVA) regarding number of requested certifications, number of certifications signed, number of certifications denied, and number of certifications withdrawn;
- Develop an outreach plan; and
- Protect confidentiality of immigrant victims’ personal identifying information and information regarding citizenship or immigration status unless required to do so under federal law or court order or with written authorization from the victim.
Per the legislation, there is a Crime Victim Certification Steering Committee that is convened, facilitated, and administered by OCVA with representation from various disciplines and geographic areas around the State to help guide in the implementation process. The committee is responsible for:
- Monitoring agency compliance with the legislation;
- Developing and delivering training for law enforcement prosecutors, victim advocates, state agency personnel, and court personnel on U and T visas, legal protections available for immigrant survivors, and promising practices on working with immigrant crime victims;
- Ensuing the public has the ability to report concerns and recommendations regarding implementation of the legislation; and
- Identifying issues and trends and making recommendations to the governor and legislature on addressing the issues.
Over the last year, OCVA and the committee members have been working diligently to develop a website with information and resources on U and T visas, create an online database of certifying agencies and officials, develop and collect reporting information from agencies, and develop training curriculum. In July 2019, we had our first in person training at the Criminal Justice Training Commission with over 50 certifying agency representatives in attendance. We are scheduled to have training opportunities available in Wenatchee in August; Spokane in September; and will be presenting a workshop at the annual Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) conference in September. Please take a few minutes to check out our website here. If you have questions, want more information, or would like training for your agency and/or community on U and T visas and the legislation, please contact:
Program Manager, Safety and Access for Immigrant Victims Program