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Visas for testimony

After the deaths of 10 people in a sweltering truck parked at a San Antonio rest stop, U.S. authorities are more determined than ever to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations engaged in human trafficking.

Approximately 100 undocumented immigrants, primarily from Mexico and Guatemala, were packed into the back of the truck as it crossed the U.S. border. When authorities arrived, they found 39 on the scene. The remaining occupants fled. Ten died while others remain in hospitals.

Those who have survived what would become a deadly human-smuggling journey into Texas may the mettle of federal law enforcement. In exchange for testimony against the driver and others responsible for operation, they want visas to stay in the United States.

The requests are not without precedent and could help bring those responsible to justice. In 2003, U.S. law enforcement granted temporary visas to immigrants who provided testimony after 19 people died following a journey in an 18-wheel tractor-trailer through Victoria, Texas.

Considered by many to be the worst case of illegal immigrant smuggling in U.S. history, 40 passengers aboard the truck received temporary visas for helping prosecutors charge more than a dozen people with conspiracy.

In addition to law enforcement, the Trump administration may also find themselves in a bit of a predicament. They have continuously vowed to stop not only illegal immigration, but also the criminal syndicates responsible for transporting human cargo across the border.

“U visas” are an option as they are available to human trafficking and other crime victims who can provide significant information to law enforcement. They are valid for four years and provide a path to apply for permanent residency status. However, the annual limit is 10,000 with the program already oversubscribed.

Additionally, immigrants would likely be required to wear of electronic monitoring devices while they traverse a bureaucratic path much safer than a dangerous ride in the back of a truck.

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