Update on Undocumented Victim Information

spotlightOur AmeriCorps member, Morgan Roy, wrote a follow-up blog to her post last week with some additional information regarding undocumented victims of domestic violence.


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. In my last blog, I wrote about Visa options for undocumented immigrants as well as general resources available. Since the time of my last Spotlight post, I have gotten a hold of information pertaining to new executive orders and policy changes surrounding immigration from the ACCESS housing coordinator, Virginia Griesheimer. She has been in contact with the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV) to stay up-to-date on Iowa’s legislative details, and is now partnering with AmeriCorps Partnering to Protect Children (APPC) to disperse the latest findings.  I pulled information that was the most critical for victims and children of domestic violence.

  • Everyone who is undocumented is a priority.
    • A note to victims: try to maintain a clean police record. If law enforcement notices prior arrests or charges, they will become a target. Note that this can include charges related to driving.
  • Revoke prior memos directing prosecutorial discretion.
    • Prosecutorial discretion leaves an agency or officer in charge of determining what to do with the case due to victim status.
      • That authority has been taken away from prosecutors. It’s now more in the hands of legal professionals with specialized training in serving victims, advocates, and the clients themselves to try and advocate for a slowdown on deportation, but there are no guarantees.
    • Punish ‘sanctuary’ jurisdictions.
      • “These cities, counties, and states have laws, ordinances, regulations, resolutions, policies, or other practices that obstruct immigration enforcement and shield criminals from ICE — either by refusing to or prohibiting agencies from complying with ICE detainers, imposing unreasonable conditions on detainer acceptance, denying ICE access to interview incarcerated aliens, or otherwise impeding communication or information exchanges between their personnel and federal immigration officers.” -Jessica Vaughan, CIS Director of Policy Studies.
      • ICE detainers allow for a person to be held for an extra 48 hours in jail while an immigration agency decides what to do with the case.
        • The ‘sanctuary’ city of Des Moines won’t honor an ICE detainer without judge approval. Marion County will not honor the detainer unless a judge approved the move with a probable cause warrant. Try to note what the criteria for honoring an ICE detainer nearby.
      • 287 (g) Agreements.
        • This gives state and local law enforcement authority to carry out the functions of immigration law enforcement.
          • State and local law enforcement may now investigate, apprehend, and detain undocumented immigrants.
          • It is stated that these officers must be trained under ICE officers. There is currently no public information pertaining to state and local law enforcement in Iowa under 287 (g).
        • Expedited Removal Expansion.
          • This now covers someone located anywhere in the United States who has entered within the last two years.
            • A note to victims and advocates: if an interaction with law enforcement is to occur, it is recommended to state that the victim has been in the U.S. for two years.
            • A note to victims: if an interaction with law enforcement is to occur, don’t speak until professional representation is present, whether that be a lawyer or an advocate.

Iowa’s Coalition on Domestic Violence reported a decrease in number of applications being processed by USCIS. They are working to determine whether the attention drawn by applying for a VAWA or U-Visa will attract negative attention, putting a victim at risk of investigation. While these factors do raise additional barriers to reporting, there are still supports in place that offer free and confidential assistance. Domestic Violence advocates are being trained to handle clients without documentation in a manner that attempts to minimize the involvement of immigration law enforcement. It is not impossible to gain independence from an abuser, one must be smart and know who is on their side with their best interest at heart.

Refer to the following website to search for local domestic violence programs in your area. http://www.icadv.org/services-in-iowa

Des Moines has domestic violence programs available to cater to specific races/ethnicities:

Asians: (866) 881-4641

Africans: (866) 881-4641

Latinas: (866) 256-7668

National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-7233