Every community suffers from physical, emotional, sexual, and other forms of abuse. Immigrants are equally vulnerable to abuse as other Americans. However, abusers may use a victim’s immigration status as a weapon of power and control to threaten or intimidate them, such as saying that Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be notified if the victim challenges or reports abuse. These kinds of threats may be particularly harmful to undocumented people because they fear legal deportation if they confront or report abusers to authorities.
Phrases such as “I am going to call immigration on you” and “You do not belong in this country” are used as fear tactics by abusers to shut down victims and provoke fear. Countless immigrants are in abusive situations, either being in their own household or by a stranger in their workspace, that do not speak up for fear of deportation. But some things protect you and your loved ones in case of abuse!
Our U.S. court system and domestic violence services are available to all survivors of domestic and sexual violence, regardless of their immigration status. Domestic violence shelters can’t refuse to help people based on their immigration status, since they are necessary to protect life and safety. In accordance with our Constitution, everyone should have access to due process, not just citizens, and our courts must be available to all victims of domestic violence, including undocumented immigrants. However, this does not mean that undocumented survivors are always safe when they go to court. Advocates for victims of domestic violence can assist survivors who are not citizens by ensuring that they are not refused a restraining order, divorce, or child custody if they attempt to seek a restraining order. Furthermore, many immigrants fear that courts will take action against them based on their immigration status. This, although possible, does not mean that every court will use the person’s immigration status against them.
Congress has created several routes to status for undocumented survivors of domestic violence to ensure they can get the same safety and justice as other survivors. Wavers and petitions such as VAWA, U- Visa, and T- Visa are available for undocumented immigrants to apply to. These documents might grant you the protection you need to escape your abusive situation.