October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and immigrants are particularly vulnerable because many may not speak English, are often separated from family and friends, and may not understand the laws of the United States. For these reasons, immigrants are often afraid to report acts of domestic violence to the police or to seek other forms of assistance. Such fear causes many immigrants to remain in abusive relationships.
Immigrants in the U.S. have the right to live a life free of abuse. Due to the victim’s immigration status, abusive partners have additional ways to exert power and control over their victims. If you are an immigrant or refugee in an abusive relationship, you may face unique issues that make it hard to reach out for help.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a landmark piece of legislation seeking to improve criminal legal, and community-based responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking in the United States. This federal law provides numerous forms of protection for noncitizen women—and men—who are the victims of domestic violence or other qualifying crimes. There are three forms of protection: “U” visas for victims of crime, “T” visas for victims of severe forms of trafficking, and “self-petitions” under the VAWA.
Any victim of domestic violence — regardless of immigration or citizenship status — can seek help. An immigrant victim of domestic violence may also be eligible for immigration-related protections. If you are experiencing domestic violence in your home, you are not alone. A specialized immigration attorney should always be your first point of contact regarding immigration questions and concerns. You can also listen to Ask the Lawyer Radio Program on WVIP 93.5FM on Thursdays, 10pm-11pm, and Sundays, 11pm to 12am. The program provides excellent information and also an opportunity for a FREE, no-obligation legal consultation. The number to call is 855-768- 8845. You can also visit www.askthelawyer.us.
Domestic violence is against the law regardless of one’s immigration status. Be a loving family member, good friend, and caring neighbor: please share this information.