Immigrant victims of domestic violence - whether documented or undocumented - face a number of barriers when seeking help and are less likely to report crimes or seek police assistance because they fear they will be reported to federal immigration authorities and deported.
Immigrant victims of domestic violence often face additional barriers to obtaining safety. Language and cultural barriers make it difficult for some immigrant victims to understand their rights, access services, and work with law enforcement. Furthermore, abusers of immigrant victims often have additional power over their victims through deliberate attempts to misrepresent the law and by controlling immigration documents and threatening deportation or losing custody of their children if they report violence.
Since Congress first passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994, federal legislation has addressed the additional challenges facing immigrant victims of domestic and sexual violence. In 2005, Congress took significant steps in the VAWA reauthorization to increase protections for immigrant victims of violence.
Learn more about VAWA 2005.
NNEDV supports policies that benefit all victims of domestic violence and we believe that the ability of immigrant victims to receive police protection and restraining orders is crucial to our efforts to end domestic and sexual violence. We work closely with the National Network to End Violence Against Immigrant Women to advocate for legislation that ensures abused immigrants can access police protection and receive services.
In 2007, following the lead of the National Network to End Violence Against Immigrant Women, NNEDV organized in support of the Senate Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill and in opposition of several amendments that would have harmed victims of domestic violence, particularly the Coleman Amendment to deputize local police to enforce federal immigration law and the Vitter Amendment that would have denied Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants to cities that do not ask about immigrant status when people report crimes. These amendments would have had a devastating effect on immigrant victims of domestic and sexual violence, who would have likely become extremely reluctant to call the police. Thanks to calls from advocates around the nation, these amendments were not successful - a clear victory for immigrants in abusive relationships.
The National Network to End Violence Against Immigrant Women continues to monitor ongoing immigration reform debate for proposals that will expose victims to even greater danger and make our communities less safe. NNEDV will work the Network and other advocates to support immigration reform provisions that ensure immigrant victims of violence have access to law enforcement and services to escape violence.
What You Can Do To Help
Join NNEDV's Action Alert list and receive updates on when you can take action to keep immigrant victims safe.