Immigrants and Refugees
IMMIGRANT AND REFUGEES
According to Futures Without Violence, a national leader on the fight against domestic violence, immigrant women often suffer higher rates of battering than U.S. citizens because they may come from cultures that condone domestic violence, have different or no domestic violence laws, or because they have less access to legal and social services than U.S. citizens. Additionally, immigrant batterers and victims may believe that the penalties and protections of the U.S. legal system do not apply to them.
Individuals born in the United States and immigrant and refugee survivors of domestic violence face similar tactics of coercive control in their relationships such as isolation, threats, emotional abuse, economic abuse, intimidation, using children, and minimizing, denying the abuse or placing blame on the victim. These coercive tactics are represented on the Power and Control wheel, developed in Duluth, Minnesota in 1984. Click Here for the wheel. But it is very common that abusive partners often tailor their violence and coercion to prey on unique individual vulnerabilities of the victim. In addition, often a person’s immigrant status makes it more difficult to escape abuse. Immigrants and refugees are often uniquely vulnerable on issues related to their legal status in the United States. Coercion and threats (which are common tactics of abuse) might revolve around threats of deportation, threats to remove access to a victim’s children who were born in the U.S., or not allowing a survivor of abuse to learn English.
In the past, battered immigrants had little control of their immigration status and frequently had to depend upon the abuser to gain legal authorization in the United States. This provided the abuser with another tactic for abuse. An abusive partner who was a resident alien or citizen controlled the family-based petition. The batterer could pull the petition at any time. Some battered women could complete the process if the batterer had already started it and they could prove to the immigration office that they were battered. In addition, immigrant victims whose abusers were not citizens or permanent resident spouses or parents had no immigration protections.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 2000 increased the possible relief for battered immigrants. Battered immigrant women can gain citizenship on their own in two ways:
- VAWA self petition if they are married to an American citizen or legal permanent resident allows a survivor to petition directly for her own citizenship.
- Crime victim visa (U visa) allows a survivor to file for citizenship if they are not married or if they are married but their partner is undocumented.
In addition to this, battered immigrant women are eligible for all of the other legal protections provided to other survivors, such as temporary and civil protection orders.
At all court proceedings limited or non-English speaking individuals should receive an interpreter at no cost to the victim. Interpreters will also be provided by domestic violence providers at no cost to the victim.