For this story, Reveal sought to examine how U visa certification requests were handled in the 10 states with the largest immigrant populations.

Four of those states – California, New Jersey, Illinois and Washington – have mandates that require law enforcement agencies to sign requests for victims of violent crimes who have been helpful to authorities.

We contacted more than 100 law enforcement agencies in the other six states: New York, Massachusetts, Georgia, Virginia, Florida and Texas. The departments serve the largest immigrant communities within their respective states. We found that nearly 1 of every 4 of these agencies create barriers never envisioned under the U visa program.

Florida

  • Fort Lauderdale Police Department: Won’t consider U visa requests after a certain time frame and considers whether the case will be solved
  • Polk County Sheriff’s Office: Considers whether the case will be solved
  • Broward County Sheriff’s Office: Considers whether the victim was helpful beyond reporting the crime
  • Lee County Sheriff’s Office: Considers the victim’s mental or physical trauma
  • Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office: Considers the victim’s mental or physical trauma
  • Miami-Dade state attorney’s office: Considers U visa requests only for closed cases 
  • Orange and Osceola counties state attorney’s office: Considers U visa requests only for closed cases
  • Clay, Duval and Nassau counties state attorney’s office: Considers the victim’s mental or physical trauma

Georgia

  • Clayton County Police Department: Considers U visa requests only for active cases
  • Chatham County district attorney’s office: Considers U visa requests only for active cases
  • Gwinnett County district attorney’s office: Considers whether the victim was helpful beyond reporting the crime
  • Gwinnett County Police Department: Considers whether the case will be solved

Massachusetts

  • Quincy Police Department: Declines to review all U visa requests 

New York

  • Yonkers Police Department: Declines to review all U visa requests
  • Rochester Police Department: Declines to review all U visa requests 

Texas

  • Dallas Police Department: Won’t consider requests after a certain time frame 
  • McAllen Police Department: Declines to review all U visa requests 
  • Tarrant County district attorney’s office: Considers U visa requests only for closed cases and won’t consider requests after a certain time frame 
  • El Paso County district attorney’s office: Won’t consider requests after a certain time frame 
  • Denton County district attorney’s office: Won’t consider requests after a certain time frame
  • Harris County district attorney’s office: Won’t consider requests after a certain time frame

Virginia 

  • Herndon Police Department: Considers U visa requests only for closed cases
  • Chesapeake Police Department: Considers whether the case will be solved
  • Leesburg Police Department: Considers whether the case will be solved
  • Arlington commonwealth’s attorney’s office: Considers U visa requests only for closed cases

State illustrations by Sarah Mirk

Laura C. Morel is a reporter for Reveal, covering immigration.

She previously was a reporter at the Tampa Bay Times, where she covered criminal justice issues. She was a 2017 finalist for a Livingston Award, which recognizes young journalists, for an investigation with two other reporters into Walmart’s excessive use of police resources.

In 2016, Morel became one of Reveal’s inaugural investigative fellows. The program, aimed at increasing diversity among the ranks of investigative journalists, offers reporters embedded at their home outlets the training and mentoring to pursue an investigative project. Morel’s fellowship project exposed the extent of Florida’s gun theft problem.

Born and raised in Miami, Morel is fluent in Spanish. She is based in St. Petersburg, Florida.