In the mornings, I usually put on CBS This Morning in the background while getting ready for work. Out of all the morning news shows, I find it the least distracting. (Mostly) straight-up news without the gimmicks.
But yesterday, I was on another channel, and a promo for an investigative piece from the local station caught my attention. The words "undocumented residents" drew me away from the bathroom mirror and toward the TV. The words "what if those applications are bogus, and those people really haven't been victims of crimes?" turned my stomach.
I didn't get a chance to catch WSOC's broadcast live last night, but I found it online. The headline on the story reads: "Illegal immigrants faking crimes to stay in Charlotte."
In the segment, WSOC investigates the "flood" of U visa applications, which are granted to immigrants living illegally in the U.S. who have been the victims of serious crimes, such as sexual assault or extortion, and have suffered "substantial physical or mental abuse." (According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, in order to be eligible, the victim is expected to assist in the investigation and/or prosecution of the crime.) U visas can pave the way to a Green Card.
The influx of applications (more than 700 so far this year to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department) has, says the news anchor, "opened the door to people accused of trying to cheat the system."
The segment goes on to share the stories of two men: one who applied for and attained a U visa after being shot in the back and subsequently paralyzed; the second man, on the other hand, allegedly staged a robbery in order to be able to apply for a U visa. He has now been charged with obstructing and delaying an investigation.
But wait a minute. That's only one case of fraud.
To substantiate their claims, the reporter talks to an attorney who deals with immigration, including U visa applications. When asked if there are other cases like this, the attorney responds: "I'm sure there are others like this."
How sure is he?
"I have seen some [cases] that I felt like possibly fraud was involved, and I wasn't going to be involved with it. And told the people so."
Last time I checked, gut reactions don't equate substantial evidence.
After the segment finishes, the news anchor includes what reads like an addendum to the report. CPMD offers the statement: "While this one case of alleged abuse of the program is unacceptable, we don't believe it's prevalent. There are a number of steps in the application process that have been put in place to prevent fraud." (Incidentally, the statement isn't included in the online text version of the story.)
So I'm left wondering: Why even bother running this story?