In 1997 in Elmhurst, two men approached Li Ping, an immigrant from China. They grabbed her and slit her throat.
While Ping was still alive, she faced the difficult choice of pursuing her attackers and risking the possibility of deportation or staying silent.
She decided on the former and cooperated with the NYPD throughout the investigation. But when the required form certifying Ping’s cooperation with the police incorrectly noted her birthdate, it prohibited her from obtaining a U-visa — credentials that temporarily grant victims of serious crimes up to four years of working status that can lead to a green card and eventually citizenship.
Just over 16 years later, Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights — who fought to fix the NYPD’s mistake — attorney Daniel Worontzoff and Carrey Wong of the New York Asian Women’s Center have come together to call attention to the issues undocumented immigrants face when applying for U-visas and to inform the public that this type of visa is available.
“Li Ping had a very difficult time applying for a U-visa,” Dromm said. “Ms. Li was the victim of a violent crime not far from where we stand today. The NYPD initially gave her a hard time when she asked for certification of the crime. Then, when they finally gave her the certification, it had the wrong birthdate on it. It took a lot of haggling ... the NYPD should not be putting obstacles in people’s way of getting a U-visa.”
Congress created the U-visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Acts in October 2000.
Ping only recently obtained her U-visa.
“U-visas encourage victims of serious crimes, who have immigration issues, to come forward and assist with the investigation and prosecution of those crimes,” Worontzoff, the attorney who represented Ping, said. “Without the protection that a U-visa can offer, undocumented immigrants would be easy targets for predatory criminals.”
Ping remained quiet for much of the conference and meekly showed the scar that the two men gave her so many years ago.
It runs from the hinge of her jaw to the middle of her throat.
“I am very pleased to be here today,” she finally said, through a translator. “I came to the United States in 1996 and never obtained legal immigration status. I am very thankful that the Worontzoff Law Office in Flushing and Councilman Daniel Dromm helped me successfully get my U-visa.”
The document is especially useful for female immigrants, who often receive them after being the victim of sex or any other kind of human trafficking.
“Over 25 percent are undocumented or their status is unknown,” Wong said. “The U-visa is a special form of immigration relief that enables undocumented victims of crime to come forward, report the crime and seek help without fear of deportation. The U-visa is a powerful option for undocumented survivors. It helps reclaim power from their abusers — many of who dangled the survivor’s immigration status in front of them as an ongoing threat.”