A 13-year-old illegal immigrant who fled to his native Mexico amid a sex scandal with his schoolteacher could be eligible to return to the United States under a new visa the government started granting the week before he disappeared.
The visa helps illegal immigrants who are victims of sex crimes. If the boy, who spent most of his life in Lexington, Nebraska, qualifies, he could stay legally in the United States for four years and eventually apply for permanent residency.
It also would extend temporary residency to his parents and his unmarried siblings under 18, if they applied for it.
“It’s a win-win,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman Marilu Cabrera said of the “U” visa. “It helps us and law enforcement be able to solve a crime, and it certainly helps the individual who is a victim of a crime.”
The boy and middle-school teacher Kelsey Peterson were found in a mall parking lot in the border town of Mexicali, Mexico, 1,500 miles from where the pair disappeared on October 26. Authorities searched for them for one week.
The boy told the AP earlier this week that he would be willing to return to the United States to testify against Peterson.
Cabrera said a conviction would not be necessary for the boy to qualify for the visa.
A law enforcement agency, prosecutor or judge in the Peterson case would have to vouch for the boy and say he helped in investigating or prosecuting Peterson in order for the boy to qualify.
The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 established “U” visas to encourage illegal immigrants to report crimes against them. Cabrera said reviews of the rules by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice delayed issuing the visas until this year.
The attorney for a Nebraska middle school teacher who fled to Mexico with a student who was an illegal immigrant said Monday that the woman could be guilty of nothing except poor judgment.
James Martin Davis said that a kidnapping charge against Kelsey Peterson should be dropped because the boy went with her willingly, and that the boy shares more responsibility for their relationship and flight than authorities allege.
“I see true victims every day,” [Davis] added. “This young man is no victim.”
Davis also suggested that the boy—who authorities say is 13—may actually be 16 or older—too old for a state statutory rape count to apply.
“The information I have is that he might be older,” said Davis, declining to elaborate. “The kid is sophisticated. He shaves, he has a mustache. I’ll be requesting his original birth certificate from the Mexican consulate. I think he had one here, but I don’t know if anyone vouched for its authenticity.”
“To prove their case, they have to have him come back here,” Davis said. “They’re going to have to cut him some deal to have him testify. In exchange for the promise of bringing him into the country, he may be anxious to please them and do what they say.”