Survey Reveals Impact of Increased Immigration Enforcement on Victims Experiencing Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault
May 18, 2017
On May 18, 2017, seven national organizations – including Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence (APIGBV), ASISTA, Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV), National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH), National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), and Tahirih Justice Center – working to end domestic violence and sexual assault released the results of the 2017 Advocate and Legal Service Survey Regarding Immigrant Survivors.
These partner organizations recognized an urgency to collect data and identify trends based on reports from their constituencies signaling increased fear and reluctance on the part of immigrant survivors to seek assistance from law enforcement or the courts, and uncertainty on the part of advocates on how to advise immigrant survivors.
“Laws and policies that deter immigrant victims from calling 911 create an impossible choice for them: they must either stay with their abusers or risk deportation,” said Archi Pyati, Chief of Policy and Programs at the Tahirih Justice Center. “We cannot turn a blind eye to this. These policies make us all less safe.”
A total of 715 victim advocates and attorneys in 46 states and the District of Columbia completed the survey and reported how changing immigration policies affects the concerns of service providers and immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
The survey documents that 78 percent of advocates reported that immigrant survivors expressed concerns about contacting police. Similarly, three in four service providers responding to the survey reported that immigrant survivors have concerns about going to court for a matter related to the abuser/offender. Finally, 43 percent of advocates worked with immigrant survivors who dropped civil or criminal cases because they were fearful to continue with their cases.
Current policies regarding immigration enforcement efforts, such as executive orders that cast a much wider net of who is considered a priority for immigration enforcement and calls for increased involvement of local and state law enforcement in federal immigration enforcement efforts, have had an impact on immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and local service providers.
“Service providers are trying to help immigrant survivors navigate a lot of uncertainty, and assessing whether there is any risk to them for reaching out for protection,” said Cecelia Friedman Levin, Senior Policy Counsel at ASISTA, a national leader on immigration remedies for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
“Compelling increased entanglement between local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement will erode community policing efforts, undermine access to safety and justice for immigrant victims and their children, and undermine public safety,” said Rosie Hidalgo, Director of Public Policy for Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network.
The survey findings also revealed that 62 percent of respondents observed an increase in the number of immigration-related questions that their agencies were receiving from immigrant survivors.
“Escaping domestic violence is already difficult for immigrant survivors,” said Kim Gandy, President and CEO of NNEDV. “The current environment makes it even more frightening for victims to come forward and seek help.”
“Like many of the organizations represented in the survey, we have consistently noticed that immigrant victims and survivors who’ve contacted us are hesitant to report abuse because of a heightened fear of deportation due to their immigration status,” said Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of NDVH. “Relatives, friends, and neighbors of immigrant abuse victims who might have reported abuse in the past have also shared that they are now wary of doing so for fear that they might be targeted for deportation.”
Congress created important protections for immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in the express recognition that perpetrators often exploit a victim’s lack of immigration status as a tactic of abuse. The U and T visa program in the 2000 reauthorization of VAWA was created to “strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to detect, investigate, and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking… and other crimes created against aliens, while offering protection to victims of such offenses in keeping with the humanitarian interests of the United States.”
“Our organizations are calling on federal government, Congressional leaders, state and local authorities, and law enforcement to reinforce the intent of VAWA and the TVPA and demonstrate their support for immigrant survivors by helping create an environment that does not leave them in the shadows,” said Grace Huang, Policy Director of APIGBV. “Current proposals that undermine community policing and intensify deportation practices put the most vulnerable victims at risk.”
“We urge officials to share our vision of ending domestic and sexual violence,” said Monika Johnson Hostler, President of NAESV. “To do so authorities must demonstrate their support for immigrant survivors of these crimes.”
Read the Survey Key Findings report to learn more about the results of the 2017 Advocate and Legal Service Survey Regarding Immigrant Survivors.
Partner agencies include:
- The Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence (formerly, Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence) is a national resource center on domestic violence, sexual violence, trafficking, and other forms of gender-based violence in Asian and Pacific Islander communities. The Institute serves a national network of advocates and community-based service programs that work with Asian and Pacific Islander and immigrant survivors, and is a leader on providing analysis and advocacy on critical issues facing victims in the Asian and Pacific Islander and immigrant communities. The Institute leads by promoting culturally relevant intervention and prevention, expert consultation, technical assistance and training; conducting and disseminating critical research; and informing public policy.
- ASISTA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that provides national leadership, advocacy, training, and technical assistance to those working with crime survivors seeking secure immigration status, especially those who have suffered gender-based violence. To learn more about ASISTA, visit www.asistahelp.org.
- Casa de Esperanza is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that seeks to mobilize Latinas and Latino communities to end domestic violence. Founded in 1982 in Minnesota to provide emergency shelter for women and children experiencing domestic violence, in 2009 Casa de Esperanza launched the National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities. The National Latin@ Network is a national institute focused on preventing and addressing domestic violence in Latino communities, providing national training and technical assistance, policy advocacy and research. To learn more about the organization, please visit casadeesperanza.org and nationallatinonetwork.org.
- The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV) is the voice in Washington for the 56 state and territorial sexual assault coalitions and 1300 rape crisis centers working to end sexual violence and support survivors. The local rape crisis centers in our network see every day the widespread and devastating impacts of sexual assault upon survivors and provide the frontline response in their communities advocating for victims, spreading awareness and prevention messages, and coordinating with others who respond to these crimes.
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a non-profit organization established in 1996 as a component of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Operating around the clock, confidential and free of cost, The Hotline provides victims and survivors with life-saving tools and immediate support. Callers to The Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) can expect highly trained advocates to offer compassionate support, crisis intervention information and referral services in more than 200 languages. Visitors to TheHotline.org can chat live with advocates and they can find information about domestic violence, safety planning, local resources, and ways to support the organization.
- The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that serves as a leading national voice for domestic violence victims and their allies. NNEDV’s membership includes all 56 state and territorial coalitions against domestic violence, including over 2,000 local programs. NNEDV has been advancing the movement against domestic violence over 25 years, having led efforts among domestic violence advocates and survivors in urging Congress to pass the landmark Violence Against Women Act of 1994. To learn more about NNEDV, please visit NNEDV.org.
- The Tahirih Justice Center is the only national, multi-city organization providing both policy advocacy and direct, on the ground legal services to immigrant and refugee women and girls fleeing violence. Tahirih will continue to monitor policy shifts that impact women and girls fleeing violence and advocate for the United States to honor its legal obligations to protect those fleeing human rights abuses.