A recent survey has shown that undocumented victims of abuse are not seeking help from law enforcement or from domestic violence outreach centers to obtain restraining orders. In the survey, 78 percent of advocates reported that survivors had expressed concerns about contacting police. Similarly, in March, LAPD Police Chief Beck said that victims of sexual assault are not reporting crimes because of fear of being deported.
Our Latino Advocate, Laura Morales-Rojas notes similar changes with her clientele. She has seen fewer walk-in clients and has worked mostly with survivors who have already left their relationship. She notes that some clients are not seeking help for themselves or their children because they are afraid of being deported. She said the community is “on edge,” and children, even if they are documented, are being bullied at school.
Quite often, if a victim of abuse is undocumented the perpetrator will use deportation as a threat to gain more power and control. Now more than ever, because of stricter immigration laws, victims of abuse feel like they have one of two options: stay with the abuser or risk being deported.
DOVES is committed to assisting all victims of domestic violence and we adhere to strict confidentiality laws. We stand by our mission to help all victims of abuse to feel safe and empowered. We also work with the Mexican Consulate to help undocumented victims of crime obtain citizenship or legal assistance.
Because of the Violence Against Women Act, undocumented immigrants are able to apply for citizenship. The VAWA Visa was created to allow immigrant victims of crime to self-petition independently for their immigration status without relying on an abusive citizen or legal permanent resident spouse. The time of this process is about 1-2 years.
Survivors can also apply for a UVisa, which gives them temporary legal status and work eligibility in the United States for up to four years. After four years, the survivor can request legal permanent residency. The caveat? Survivors must be willing to work with law enforcement for investigation or prosecution of the individual that committed the crime to obtain a Visa, which the current trend shows is not happening.
It’s evident that perpetrators are gaining more power over their undocumented partners, leaving undocumented victims of abuse feeling even more helpless and isolated. The state of California is working toward providing more safety nets for immigrant survivors so that their safety is prioritized, and so perpetrators of abuse are held accountable for their actions. Until then, DOVES will remain a safe place for all survivors of abuse.