Safety and Access for Immigrant Victims

  • August 14, 2019
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certifications, number of certifications signed, number of certifications denied, and number of certifications withdrawn;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: Richard Torrance Managing Director Office of Crime Victims Advocacy (360)725-2905 richard.torrance@commerce.wa.gov
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Safety and Access for Immigrant Victims Program

Silhouette of a refugees family with children

General Information

In June of 2018, the Washington State Legislature passed the Safety and Access for Immigrant Victims Act. The goal of this bill is to promote consistent and equal treatment and offer protections to immigrant victims statewide. Ensuring that all victims of crime are able to access the protections available to them under the law is in the best interest of victims, law enforcement and the entire community.

Agency Reporting

RCW 7.98.020 (6)(c) requires each certifying agency identified in RCW 7.98 to keeping written documentation of the following:

  • The number of certification forms requested
  • The number of certification forms signed
  • The number of certification forms denied
  • The number of certification forms withdrawn

Reports are due to the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy by August 15th of every year for the state fiscal year time period: July 1 – June 30.  

Link to Certifying Agency Reporting Form for July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021

Link to Certifying Agency Resource and Data dashboard

 

Concerns and Recommendations

RCW 7.98 requires that the Crime Victim Certification Steering Committee establish mechanisms for the public to report concerns and offer recommendations on the implementation of the Safety and Access for Immigrant Victims Act. There are several ways that you can report your concerns or recommendations below.

Complete via the web:  Concerns Reporting Form (web form)

Email or Mail: Concerns Reporting Form – English (PDF) 

Formulario de informe de inquietudes del Comité Directivo de Certificación para las Víctimas de la Delincuencia—Concerns Reporting Form–Spanish (pdf)

نموذج الإبلاغ عن المخاوف إلى اللجنة التوجيهية لتوثيق أحوال ضحايا الجرائم—Concerns Reporting Form–Arabic (pdf)

Форма сообщения о проблемах Координационного комитета по сертификации жертв преступлений—Concerns Reporting Form–Russian (pdf)

犯罪受害人认证指导委员会问题报告表—Concerns Reporting Form–Chinese Simplified (pdf)

Biểu Mẫu Báo Cáo Quan Ngại Cho Ban Chỉ Đạo Chứng Nhận Nạn Nhân Của Hành Vi Phạm Tội—Concerns Reporting Form–Vietnamese (pdf)

범죄 피해자 인증서 운영 위원회우려 사항 보고 양식Concerns Reporting Form–Korean (pdf)

Form Para sa Pag-uulat ng Mga Alalahanin sa Pumapatnubay na Komite Para sa Sertipikasyon ng Biktima ng KrimenConcerns Reporting Form–Tagalog (pdf)

  1. Requires certifying agencies (defined as law enforcement, prosecutors, administrative judges, hearing officers and agencies that have investigative jurisdiction in their respective area of expertise) to do the following:
  • Make a determination that a victim was a victim of a qualified crime.
  • Make a determination that the victim has been helpful; is currently being helpful; or is likely to be helpful in the detention, investigation, and prosecution of the criminal activity.
  • Documented the above information appropriately on the federal U and T visa certification forms.
  • Process the certifications within 90 days of the request, unless the victim is in federal immigration removal proceedings, in which the request must be processed within 14 days.
  • Identify an individual at their agency that is responsible for responding to certification requests.
  • Provide outreach and education to the community regarding U and T visa certifications.
  • Provide documentation of the number of certifications signed, denied, and/or withdrawn to the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy (OCVA) annually.

2. Ensures that certifying agencies have language access protocols for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and deaf and hard of hearing victims.

3. Provides confidentiality for victims, in that certifying agencies are not to disclose personal identifying information and immigration status unless disclosure is required under relevant federal law or court order.

4. Requires that OCVA convene a Crime Victim Certification Steering Committee.

The U non-immigrant status (U visa) is set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation and prosecution of criminal activity. You can read more about the U Visa here.

The T non-immigrant status (T visa) is a temporary immigration benefit that enables certain victims of a severe form of human trafficking to remain in the United States for up to four years if they have assisted law enforcement in an investigation or prosecution of human trafficking. You can read more about the T Visa here.

Crime Victim Certification Steering Committee

Crime Victim Certification Steering CommitteeThis committee, convened by the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy, includes members representing the best interest of immigrant crime victims.

Immigrant Victims Infographic (pdf)
Meeting Schedule (pdf)
Meeting Minutes (pdf)

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