ASISTA Press Release: ASISTA Files FOIA Lawsuit Demanding Information about USCIS’s Use of Discretion in Green Card Applications for Crime Victims


Contact: Ahlam Moussa

On Thursday, April 30, ASISTA and the Immigration Center for Women and Children (ICWC) filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of California demanding that USCIS and DHS disclose information requested related to their exercise of discretion in adjudicating adjustment of status (green card) applications by crime victims who have been granted a U visa.

The bipartisan U visa program was created by Congress in 2000 to provide a path to legal immigration status for noncitizen survivors of crimes who are helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the crimes against them. A key component of the U visa program is that if USCIS approves the U visa, the crime survivor can eventually apply for permanent residence (green card).  

Over the past two years, immigration lawyers have noticed an alarming increase in USCIS’s requests for documents related to crime victims’ criminal history even where they had never been charged or convicted of any crime or where the underlying conduct had already been disclosed and waived during the U visa filing process. In some cases, USCIS has used these documents to deny the adjustment application. This new practice, coupled with USCIS’s refusal to publicly share the agency’s adjudications guidance and criteria, has left crime victims and their families, along with their representatives, uncertain about how USCIS is deciding these applications. 

ASISTA and ICWC, which are represented pro bono in this suit by Van Der Hout LLP, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking information on USCIS’s policies on these practices on November 22, 2019, which USCIS has failed to answer. We have now filed suit to force USCIS to comply with its obligation to respond to our FOIA request.

Gail Pendleton, Executive Director of ASISTA states: “Survivors of crime deserve transparency and accountability from USCIS. This new policy is one more strategy in this Administration’s ongoing war against immigrants and is a blatant attempt to undercut Congress’s bipartisan efforts to protect crime victims.”

A copy of the filing is available here.

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