The decision to escape violence in the home is one that is almost impossible to make alone. It obviously involves major effort from victims, but it also may involve non-profit advocate groups, social service agencies, and law enforcement. The process that helps victims escape their abusers can be difficult and can be more complicated when the victim is an immigrant or a non-English speaker. A victim may be afraid to ask for legal assistance because she doesn’t speak English or doesn’t speak English well enough. She may also be afraid that she will be deported. Additionally, immigrant victims of domestic violence may believe that they don’t have the same rights or legal protections than their abusers.
EVERY person that needs help from Next Door Solutions can get help, regardless of immigration status. Immigration status is not reported to any other office and a client’s safety, privacy and confidentiality is the most important part of receiving services. ALL victims of domestic violence, including undocumented immigrants have legal rights, legal options and a means to escape their abuser without the risk of deportation or losing their children. One such option is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which was passed by the United States Congress in 1994. Under the Violence Against Women Act, non-citizens who are married to or who have, within the previous 2 years, divorced U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents can petition to obtain legal permanent residence. So, instead of a victim depending on an abusive partner for immigration status, a victim can apply for residency in a confidential statement without the approval or knowledge of their spouse.
If a victim’s abuser is not a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident, she may not use VAWA to gain residency, but can apply for a U-Visa or a U-Non Immigrant Status. A U-Visa provides legal immigration status to non-citizens who are willing to assist police in the investigation of the crimes against them. To apply for a U-Visa, a victim’s abuser doesn’t need to be a U.S. citizen or even a lawful resident, and the victim does not have to be married to the abuser. The only requirement of the U-Visa is that the violent crime must be reported to the police and applicants must be willing to assist officials in the investigation and prosecution of the crime.
For every case of partner abuse and domestic violence, there usually is a pattern of control placed on the victim to prevent her from leaving. Whether it is financial, emotional, or physical, abusers find many ways to trick their partners into staying. Leaving an abusive partner is difficult enough under such circumstances, but immigrant victims have the added threat of deportation and the loss of their children as well. However, by providing immigrant victims with information about their rights and their legal options, we can give them alternatives to violence, abuse, and torment.
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