Immigrant victims of domestic violence, like other victims of violence, have many complex legal concerns which may keep them from reporting violence. In cases of victims who either do not possess legal status in this country, or those whose immigration status is dependent upon their relationship to their abusive spouse or relative, this reluctance to report is largely based upon their fear of revocation of their status or even deportation.
Protections Under the Violence Against Women Act
Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a woman who is married to her U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) abuser is entitled to self-petition for her LPR (“green card”) on her own behalf, and for her children if they are also abused. Additionally, VAWA provides an exception for battered women who are facing removal or deportation, to cancel or suspend those processes.
Protections Under the Victims of Crime Act
U Visas: U Visas are available to victims who have suffered physical or mental injury stemming from criminal activity (domestic violence, rape, female genital mutilation, incest, sexual assault, etc.) being perpetrated against them. An immigrant victim who is granted a U Visa will become eligible to lawfully live and work in the United States. Additionally, the recipient of a U Visa may eventually become eligible to receive their LPR or green card. Applicant victims must be willing to cooperate with police investigations into the crime perpetrated against them.
T Visas: T Visas are available to immigrant victims of human trafficking for sex or labor. The T Visa, like U Visas, provides the immigrant victim with access to work authorization, lawful residence, access to various forms of public assistance and the potential to obtain LPR status. As with the U Visa, those wishing to obtain a T Visa must be willing to cooperate with the police in their investigation and prosecution of the crime perpetrated against the immigrant victim.
Come Out of the Shadows
The most important thing for immigrant victims to know is that they are not alone, and they have options. They do not have to endure violence and crime for fear of their immigration status. If you are a victim of domestic violence or other types of crime, do not hide in the shadows. Seek the advice and assistance of a qualified attorney, and develop a safety plan.