ACLU files lawsuit against Roanoke Police Department

ROANOKE, Va. – A first-of-its-kind lawsuit was filed by the ACLU against the Roanoke City Police Department.

“We need to make sure all those who experienced violence are able to seek help from law enforcement,” Sophia Gregg, Immigration Attorney with the ACLU said.

Gregg filed a lawsuit against the Roanoke Police Department.

“This case is challenging the Roanoke City Police Department’s handling of U-Visa’s certification,” Gregg said.

Gregg represents an unidentified Guatemalan immigrant woman, Jane Doe, in the lawsuit. Gregg claims Jane Doe is a domestic abuse survivor.

In 2012, Doe had visible injuries including some to the head.

Doe reported those injuries to the Roanoke Police, and as a result of the investigation was given a U-Visa, paperwork giving her nonimmigrant status since she worked with Roanoke Police with a crime.

Doe now wants to become a full U.S. Citizen, but in order for that to happen she needs Roanoke Police to re-issue the U-Visa certification.

Gregg said Roanoke Police denied Doe, which violates Virginia 9.1-1502.

“The point of the law is to create uniformity with this process, here in this case Roanoke Police has failed to do so,” Gregg said.

According to Virginia 9.1-1502, if a certifying agency fails to respond within the statutory time frames or refuses to certify that an applicant was a victim of qualifying criminal activity, the applicant may petition a circuit court to review the determination of the certifying agency within 30 days.

Doe’s immigration legal team reached out to Roanoke Police in October to get a U-Visa Certification.

After getting no response, Doe’s legal team reached out again in January.

In the lawsuit, Deputy Chief Stokes with Roanoke Police responded in an email saying, “Per our long-standing practice we do not respond to U-Visa requests. We are not required by state or federal law and our city attorney has advised we should not respond to these requests.”

10 News reached out to the city, and responded with the following statement.

“Due to internal miscommunication, this particular request was not processed in accordance with our normal procedures.”

We assure all Roanoke residents that we are a welcoming community, and we are committed to processing all U Visa requests in accordance with the law. We have honed our procedures to ensure a more consistent response to these U visa requests. Immigration attorneys or individuals who believe their requests have not been responded to appropriately by the City are encouraged to contact Sergeant Will Drake, william.drake@roanokeva.gov or 540-853-2673.”

Roanoke City

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