Asian immigrant wins U-Visa as crime victim

By Bill Parry

Li Ping traveled to Jackson Heights from her home in Flushing to be the face of City Councilman Daniel Dromm’s (D-Jackson Heights) new campaign to raise awareness about the merits of U-Visas for immigrant victims of violent crime.

After the 66-year-old emigre from China was brutally attacked in 1997 and had her throat slashed, she had a difficult time securing her U-Visa until Dromm intervened.

In October 2000, Congress created the U-Visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act. The visa grants immigrants who are victims of serious crimes up to four years of temporary working status that can lead to a green card and eventually citizenship.

“Ms. Li was the victim of a violent crime not far from where we stand today,” Dromm said outside his office on Monday, at 37-32 75th St. “The NYPD initially gave her a hard time when she asked for certification of the crime. When they finally gave her the certification, it had the wrong birth date on it.”

Dromm said he got no cooperation from the Bloomberg administration, particularly Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

“The NYPD should not be putting obstacles in people’s way of getting a U-Visa,” Dromm said.

In 1997, two men assaulted Li in Elmhurst and slit her throat. Throughout the investigation she cooperated with the NYPD in an effort to catch her attackers, who were never apprehended, but her efforts went unrewarded until the de Blasio administration took over in January.

She was finally granted her U-Visa earlier this year and is finally on the path to permanent citizenship, a process that will probably take four more years.

“This happens often and it’s time for a change,” Dromm said. “I admire her for her bravery and courage. She was willing to do this press conference so other immigrants become aware that if they are the victims of violent crimes, they should cooperate with police investigations instead of fearing deportation.”

Li Ping’s attorney, Daniel Worontzoff, said, “Without the protection that a U-Visa offers, undocumented immigrants would be easy targets for predatory criminals. With the dedication of individuals in law enforcement and government, like Councilman Dromm, the U-Visa program can operate effectively.”

Carrey Wong, an attorney with the New York Asian Women’s Center who helped with Li Ping’s case, said, “The U-Visa is a powerful option for undocumented survivors. It helps reclaim power from their abusers, many of whom dangled the survivor’s immigration status in front of them as an ongoing threat. The U-Visa also empowers the survivor to be a part of the solution by taking perpetrators of domestic violence and sexual assault off the streets, preventing them from harming others.”

Wong’s New York Asian Women’s Center is based in Elmhurst but never gives out its address so perpetrators cannot track down their victims, according to Dromm.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

More from Around New York