Making Justice Real

The Official Blog of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

Unique Challenges and Solutions for Undocumented Immigrant Survivors of Domestic Violence

 

Wemi Peters, Staff Attorney

An article published in the Washington Post yesterday shed light on the challenges faced by immigrant victims and survivors of domestic violence.  For all too many undocumented immigrant women suffering violence at the hands of husbands, boyfriends, and partners, the added threat of deportation is often a part of the abuse. Fear of losing their residency prevents many of these women from reporting domestic violence to the authorites, leaving them feeling powerless against their abusers. The article highlighted two forms of relief, however, that specifically address the immigration problems faced by undocumented survivors of domestic violence: the “U visa” and Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  Both laws provide avenues for survivors to acquire legal residency in the United States.   

Every day, Legal Aid provides legal assistance to survivors of domestic violence in need of civil protection orders in the District. Yet, on many occasions, these survivors are undocumented immigrants who have suffered domestic violence silently, reluctant to bring themselves to seek help.  Although Legal Aid is unable to provide legal assistance for immigration-related issues for the survivors it serves, Legal Aid attorneys refer undocumented immigrant survivors to organizations, such as Ayuda, which do.

Work permits and legal residency may do little to ease the pain and trauma of a violent relationship, but they do provide the stability necessary for survivors to begin their lives anew.  Legal Aid is committed to helping all survivors, regardless of their immigration status, build stable and safe lives for themselves and their families.

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