In response to the article and editorial published by the Waco Tribune Herald regarding my handling of U-Visas, I would like to point out the inaccuracies and omissions made by the paper as they continue with their pattern of agenda-driven reporting instead of presenting the facts to readers and allowing them to draw their own conclusions.
Before I get started, I must first take exception with the editorial board’s claim that I have a habit of calling them after an important story has been published to complain about it. What they do not tell their readers is that I did not call them at all. It was actually one of their editors who approached me at the courthouse to ask what I thought about their story. Furthermore, the notion that somehow I am responsible for their shoddy reporting is absurd. Whether I call them or not, it is incumbent upon the Tribune Herald to make sure a story is factually correct; something they have failed to do with the U-Visa story, among others in the recent past.
A U-Visa is for someone who is in the country illegally and who risks deportation for being cooperative with law enforcement on a case from start to finish. The Tribune Herald implies that it is meant as a reward for cooperation, but nothing could be further from the truth. The purpose of the U-Visa is to prevent deportation of a victim at different stages throughout the justice system. The U-Visa process also provides authority to different entities to sign off on the Law Enforcement certification portion.
The Tribune Herald neglects to point out that the District Attorney’s office is just one of four entities who can sign the Law Enforcement Certification. Chiefs of Police, the Sheriff and Judges can also sign that portion of the U-Visa. Lawyers who are seeking this legal status for their clients can simply submit their Law Enforcement certifications to any of these entities.
The Tribune Herald also attempts to play on your sympathies for the victim they cited in their story with a half-telling of the facts. What they fail to mention is that the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund of the State of Texas does not require legal status to receive benefits. Compensation can be awarded to victims for things like medical care, hospital care, physical therapy, nursing care, psychiatric care or counseling. The victim also does not have to pay an immigration lawyer for this service; our office provides it for free.
Now I would like to address two statements published by the Tribune Herald that are patently false.
Tribune Herald: “Advocates scheduled a meeting in late August to discuss the issue with Reyna. But he canceled it and has not attempted to reschedule, several of them said.”
This statement is false and a basic fact check would have revealed as much. The meeting did occur. Different advocate groups were in attendance as well as a facilitator from Baylor University and a representative from the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement via phone. The meeting took place at the Advocacy Center. The advocacy groups determined that the best agency to sign off on U-Visas from the start would be law enforcement and they intended to approach the Sheriff and Chiefs of Police.
Tribune Herald: “Other attorneys and advocates for illegal immigrants have reported similar experiences with the district attorney’s office since Reyna took the post in January 2011. Before, the office routinely signed off on such requests, they said.”
This is also a false statement based on the hearsay of unnamed sources as opposed to an actual analysis of the public record. The substantial majority of U-Visa applications that I have received have come from cases that were resolved prior to my taking office. I have received U-Visa applications from cases that have been closed dating back to 2001. Furthermore, our Victim Service Coordinator worked under the previous administration and has confirmed that the previous administration did not receive nearly as many U-Visa applications in the past as we have received since January 2011. Also, the previous administration rarely signed off on the U-Visa applications that they did receive. A cursory review of those applications would have uncovered this fact.
As I have stated previously, while we advocate strongly for our victims, anytime you have a federal law that allows a person and family members who are in our country illegally to become legal residents and work based upon one family member’s status as a crime victim, then there is a great potential for abuse. We must be vigilant to ensure that abuse does not occur.
The Tribune Herald’s editorial makes it sound as though I should or did promise something in return for testimony. This has not, cannot and will not be done. U-Visa’s are not supposed to be a reward for testimony, but rather an insurance policy to make sure that justice is done.
If only the Tribune Herald’s agenda were to report the news, rather than push a political angle, their readers would be much better served.
Criminal District Attorney