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Texas CPS drawing criticism for halting issuance of special visas for child crime victims

Texas Child Protective Services is drawing criticism for discontinuing its issuance of special visas for undocumented immigrant child victims of crime.

According to the Texas Observer, Texas Child Protective Services, since April, has been quietly rejecting requests for help from victims of crime who are undocumented children.

The agency abandoned its policy of providing the special certifications, called U nonimmigrant visas that gives immigrant victims of crime the chance to stay in the United States for up to four years, if they meet two criteria certified by law enforcement: that they are the victim of a qualifying crime and that they have assisted with a criminal investigation.

The purpose? To encourage undocumented victims to come forward and report crimes, something many are reluctant to do because of fear of deportation.

Lawyers and advocates who file for the visas on behalf of child victims say they weren’t given notice or any kind of explanation that Texas CPS was changing its policy.

Glenaan O’Neil, regional director of immigrant victim’s services at the Texas Civil Rights Project, told the Texas Observer that she found out about the change after submitting a request for a young domestic violence victim in May, at which point she was told that the agency was no longer processing such requests.

The decision to cease issuing the certifications came about after the CPS legal department concluded that the certifications should be handled by law enforcement agencies, DPS Spokesperson Patrick Crimmins told the Observer.

Advocates think the agency's ban on issuing the certifications puts undocumented immigrants at greater risk for becoming victims of crime because they will be less likely to report them since CPS is generally the first to respond to those kinds of situations, particularly when they involve children.