Unfortunately, many people experience domestic violence during their lives, and its harmful effects are significant. Women and children who are immigrants, in particular, face a higher risk of suffering domestic abuse due to their vulnerability as noncitizens and fear of deportation if they report the abuse.
If you’ve experienced domestic violence, you can safely and anonymously seek help. There are many resources available for you regardless of your immigration status. An immigration lawyer can also be an essential ally when seeking refuge from an abusive partner.
Domestic Violence in the Context of Immigration
In the U.S. immigration system, noncitizens who immigrate often do so with the help of family members who are citizens or permanent residents. Unfortunately, an abusive partner may exploit this situation, knowing their noncitizen partner or children depend on them for their immigration status, using it as a means to perpetuate abuse.
The American Immigration Council highlights the complex challenges and unique risks that immigrant women in particular, face regarding domestic violence. For example, they are more likely to remain with an abusive spouse for fear of retribution. Immigrant women are also less likely to report abuse, believing that doing so will increase the violence or even lead to deportation if their partner refuses to petition for them.
An immigration legal professional may help them seek safety by:
- Asking another family member to petition for their citizenship
- Exploring legal alternatives to stay in the country independently
- Seeking support for their children’s immigration status without compromising safety
- Utilizing available resources to prevent deportation or separation from family
- Finding confidential avenues for help, such as domestic violence shelters and other agencies
Immigration Relief Options
The federal government offers unique options to victims of domestic violence seeking relief and a path toward citizenship.
U Visas are set aside for some victims of severe and violent crimes who cooperate with law enforcement to prosecute those crimes. Immigrant victims of violent crimes can apply for this visa, which can provide them with relief and stability regarding their immigration status.
A person may qualify for a U visa if they:
- Are the victim of a qualifying crime
- Endured significant physical or mental abuse as a result of the crime
- Possess information about the crime and are willing to assist law enforcement to prosecute perpetrators (or have previously done so)
- Provide proof of their cooperation to law enforcement to support their visa application
- Meet citizen admission requirements or obtain an inadmissibility waiver
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) gives immigrants the ability to file a self-petition to remain in the country without having to rely on an abusive partner or reluctant family member for legal standing and income. The abusive spouse or partner will not know about this self-petition.
A person may qualify for a VAWA self-petition if they:
- Are married to a citizen or lawful permanent resident or divorced from a citizen or lawful permanent resident and apply within two years of the date of dissolution of the marriage
- Are the child of an abusive citizen or permanent resident and are under the age of 25
T Visas provide a path to safety for immigrant victims of sex trafficking. Individuals who qualify for a T visa may become eligible for legal citizenship, legal authorization to work in the country, and possibly a way to secure permanent U.S. residency.
A person may qualify for a T visa if:
- They are in the United States as a human trafficking victim
- They suffered extreme and severe abuse
- They help law enforcement investigate and prosecute the perpetrators (minors do not have to fulfill this obligation for eligibility)
- They can prove that deportation would bring greater danger and harm to them than remaining legally in the U.S.
It often feels overwhelming for immigrant victims of domestic violence to seek safety and assistance. Contacting one of the organizations below is an essential first step:
- The Immigrant Legal Resource Center is a reliable source of information for immigrant victims of domestic violence who are trying to secure legal status. They can provide information about the specific visas and how to appeal a denied claim.
- The National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project(NIWAP) offers numerous resources for starting the self-petition process, understanding how to gain legal status, and researching the barriers preventing women from self-petitioning.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline is free, confidential, and available 24/7/365 by phone number or online chat feature. Counselors are available to handle emergencies and communicate without any language barriers.
Navigating the Legal System
A Las Vegas immigration lawyer is a valuable resource, offering comprehensive support throughout the legal process. From filing the necessary paperwork to providing legal protection, they ensure you can confidently pursue justice and safety.
Immigration lawyers can assist noncitizen victims in several ways:
- Help individuals understand their visa options to remain legally
- Gather the necessary documents and proof of eligibility
- Provide a legal barrier through restraining orders to shield victims from further abuse
- Complete the visa application process
Conversations and communication between clients and attorneys are confidential, so victims of domestic violence can speak openly and candidly about their situation.
Personal Stories and Case Studies
There are numerous stories of immigrants who successfully obtained legal status and were able to leave their abusive partners and deplorable living environments. Many of them go on to have fulfilling lives. In 2010, NIWAP surveyed 21 Mexican immigrants about their experiences self-petitioning for legal residency through VAWA. You can read more about their experiences here.
Contact a Las Vegas Immigration Attorney
Everyone deserves to live in a safe environment free from violence and intimidation, no matter their immigration status. There are paths to citizenship and independence open immigrants trying to break free from an abuser who exploits their noncitizen status.
If you are living with an abusive spouse or family member, an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney can guide you on a path to legal status without fear, intimidation, and violence. Contact De Castroverde Law Group Criminal & Immigration for a free and confidential consultation today.