Intersectionality: Domestic Violence and Immigration

spotlightHello readers! We apologize for our year long hiatus, but things have been progressing quickly with our implementation of the Safe & Together Model. More on that to come!

In the mean time, our new AmeriCorps member, Morgan Roy, has written a wonderful blog on domestic violence and immigration. Welcome to Morgan, and enjoy her article below!

“As we know in child welfare, victims of domestic violence face several barriers when it comes to disclosing their abuse. These could include fear of rejection, less-than-desirable interactions with organizations or law enforcement, and fear of confidentiality being broken. Those who are in the country without proper paperwork face additional barriers to disclosing their victim status and being provided resources. It is a common misconception that undocumented immigrants cannot seek out assistance. Most of these people never reveal the violence that is occurring for fear of being deported. Here is where we bust that myth and provide resources.

I did some research at the website usa.gov/deportation to gain a better understanding of the deportation process. For an undocumented resident to physically be removed from the United States, a report must be made (this can be done by anyone.) After this, the case would be formed and read in the U.S. Department of Justice: Immigration Courts. If a judge decides that deportation is to proceed, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) carries out the removal order.

It is not in the job description of a domestic violence advocate to report people who are here illegally, nor is it the job of hospital staff or school employees to file a report. While it is being pushed for law enforcement to identify undocumented immigrants upon intake, this does not mean that the end result will be deportation. Under U.S. law, any crime victim can call the police for help or obtain a protection order (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). Anyone may call 9-1-1 if in an unsafe situation and make a report to law enforcement.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recognizes domestic violence among undocumented citizens. Per their website, “A battered spouse, child or parent may file an immigrant visa petition under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).” This amendment allows qualified spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens or permanent residents (Green Card holders) to file a petition in order to gain safety and independence from their abuser. It is important to note that the perpetrator is never notified about the filing. Individuals looking to file must fill out Form I-360 and provide all documentation to support the case. Upon approval, individuals could be eligible for a Green Card. This website has information pertaining to qualification requirements and access to Form I-360.

An alternative to the petition process is an application for a U Visa. This option has a broader list of criminal activities against a victim, which includes, “Rape, torture, trafficking, incest, domestic violence, sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, prostitution, sexual exploitation […]” (American Immigration Council, 2012). These activities must have violated U.S. laws, or taken place in the U.S. One major factor that sets this visa aside from the previously discussed selection is that the victim must be cooperative in aiding a federal, state, or local investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services also has a page that covers basic protections under civil and criminal law, regardless of citizenship status.

  • The right to obtain a protection order for you and your child(ren).
  • The right to legal separation or divorce without the consent of your spouse.
  • The right to ask for custody of your child(ren) and financial support: this includes child support.

When a parent files the petition, they are subject to the family preference system. In regards to the Immigration and Nationality Act, family-based visas can be permitted to immediate relatives or distant familial relationships, under the right circumstances. According to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, the spouse of the U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and their children, provided they are under the age of 21 and unmarried, are qualified for the Immediate Relative Immigrant Visa. The Family Preference Immigrant Visa goes on to include a wide range of family members that qualify. It is important to note that the Family Preference visas are limited in quantity per fiscal year. The American Immigration Council published an article discussing alternative forms of immigration relief, one being Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. This is available to non-citizen minors who were abused, neglected, or abandoned by one or both parents. Eligibility requirements mandate that the child must be under 21, unmarried, and deemed suitable by a juvenile court.”

-Morgan Roy, AmeriCorps Member