By Stephen Dinan - The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 23, 2018

An illegal immigrant from Mexico pleaded guilty Tuesday to faking his own kidnapping to try to win a special visa given out to victims of crimes.

Alejandro Mario Cortes beat himself with an extension cord to create bruises, then had his nephew wrap his mouth and wrists in duct tape and drop him off at a location in St. Paul, Minnesota, hoping police would think he’d suffered an abduction, the FBI says.

The nephew was also recruited to send bogus threatening text messages to fill out the kidnapping story, federal officials said.

Investigators poked holes in Cortes’s story after tracing the phone numbers used to send the threats, and discovering the nephew was involved. The nephew admitted to his part in the scam, the FBI said in court papers.

Cortes was hoping to win a U visa, which is available to victims of serious crimes and are willing to help authorities track down and prosecute the perpetrators.

While the U visa is temporary, it is a bridge to legal permanent residency, or green-card status, which is the key step on the path to citizenship. That makes it attractive to temporary visitors and illegal immigrants eyeing more permanent status in the U.S.

More than 36,000 people applied in 2017 for U visas slots. There’s currently a backlog of more than 200,000 applications, with just 10,000 approvals doled out each year.

Cortes, who went by multiple aliases, had been deported in 2001 and again in 2010, and acknowledged to investigators that he was in the country illegally. He also had been arrested on a drunken-driving charge in Minnesota in 2010.

He pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Minnesota to charges of conspiracy to commit visa fraud, and to reentry after deportation.