Client: Family
Client’s Country of Origin: Egypt, Nicaragua
Case Type: U-Visa; Victims of Criminal Activity
Date of Application: April 2017
Date of Approval: Pending

In 2017, our clients suffered a life-changing disturbance. At 3 AM on a Saturday morning, a family of five abruptly woke to what sounded like an explosion. In Buffalo, New York, a man had set fire to a two-story building that housed four immigrant families. Our clients had made the second floor their home.

At first, the father heard noises from the bottom floor and didn’t think anything of it. Within seconds, his home filled with scorching heat and smoke. Our client knew the only chance to get his family to safety was by jumping through the window on the second floor of the house. One by one, his wife and two of his children made their way outside before the fire department arrived. Suffocating in black smoke, the father held his six-month-old child in his last efforts to escape.

Now, the family sustains permanent injuries and hurts from memories they cannot avoid. After the incident, the mother had spent a month in a medically induced coma. The children all suffer from third-degree burns and PTSD. During the evacuation, the father had broken his leg, leaving him with permanent damage and reliance on a wheelchair to get around. The arsonist has been found guilty by the verdict and was sentenced to a maximum of 15 years’ incarceration. Trial attorneys question whether religion played a role in both the occurrence and the jury decision; the four families who lived in the building are Muslim, and the religious denomination had been mentioned during the trial.

The family sought help for the next steps to take. They approached their local Herman Legal Group office on their situation, and expert immigration Attorney Erin James assisted with the matter. She advised that applying for U-Visas is an option for the family to obtain lawful permanent residency and US protection. U-Visas are set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered from mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. These visas are subject to qualifying criminal activities, and applicants must prove that (1) the law was broken under this visa grounds, and (2) the applicants were cooperative and assisted law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.

Attorney James assisted with gathering the necessary documentation to assemble an eligible application. She accumulated testimony from the victims, obtained statements from the police force and detectives that our clients helped law enforcement gather evidence of the crime, and acquired a letter from the chief prosecutor of the criminal case. While our clients’ application is currently pending with USCIS, we are hopeful that they receive a successful outcome.