Senate Democrats are currently pushing a version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization bill that would grant tens of thousands of additional U visas to aliens, both legal and illegal.

Although VAWA was created to increase protections for women suffering domestic violence and abuse, the open-borders lobby has hijacked this critically important bill and turned it into its latest vehicle to increase visas and grant amnesty to illegal aliens. In fact, the latest version before the Senate (S. 1925) by Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) would increase U visas by over 34,000 (by allowing for an additional 5,000 visas per year until all of the unused visas from 2006 are recaptured).

Congress created the U nonimmigrant visa program to allow aliens who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a victim of crime to obtain temporary legal status as a nonimmigrant if they help law enforcement. However, the program is actually a path to citizenship for virtually anyone who applies. Illegal aliens are eligible for U visas, and once obtained, they may remain in the country for four years at a time, receive work authorization, and become eligible for a green card after three years!

Although federal law caps the number of U visas granted each year at 10,000, there is no limit to the number of derivative visas that may be issued to qualifying family members. And, once a U visa application is approved, work authorization is granted automatically to the alien and their qualifying family. Even family members in deportation proceedings or with final orders of removal are eligible for legal status under the program.

Additionally, federal law already permits USCIS the authority to grant temporary legal status through humanitarian parole or deferred action to alien victims who help prosecute their assailant, further negating the need for the program.

As a result, Congress should not expand the U visa program. Only making matters worse is the Senate Democrats’ exploitation of VAWA to do so. Unscrupulous politicians should NOT get away with playing political football with our country’s immigration laws during an election year. If lawmakers wish to expand the U visa program, that legislation should be introduced independently and debated with transparency for the benefit of the American people.