The number of crime and trafficking victims applying for special visas to stay in the country has increased, thanks to federal officials' outreach to local law enforcement, immigration authorities said Thursday.
More than 13,000 crime victims have applied for the visas so far this fiscal year, up at least 28 percent from a year earlier, according to statistics provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. About 860 trafficking victims have applied, a 51 percent increase.
Many victims say they learned about the visas _ known as "T-" and "U-visas" _ from local law enforcement, said Lynn Boudreau, assistant director of the agency's Vermont Service Center, which processes victims' applications.
That leads immigration officials to believe outreach efforts may be paying off, Boudreau told reporters in Los Angeles on a nationwide tour to educate law enforcement about the visas.
Immigration officials have held training sessions for law enforcement in 30 cities this year to make officers aware of the trafficking visa and explain their role in immigrants' applications for a crime victim visa.
To apply for a visa, crime victims must obtain paperwork from law enforcement certifying they have been cooperative with an investigation. Community advocates say sometimes officials are reluctant to provide this paperwork, fearing they are granting victims a visa.