There are protections available to victims of violence who are immigrants and refugees. Immigrants and refugees may face unique abuse tactics in domestic and sexual violence such as:
• Being accused of leaving or failing their culture or background
• Culture may teach that family comes first no matter what
• May be lied to about their partner’s ability to have them deported and keep children
• May be lied to about what United States law says about abuse and immigration
Immigrants may also experience higher rates of isolation as a tactic of violence because they may be far from family or friends. There are many protections available to immigrant victims of violence these are:
You can learn more about what a protection order does here. You do not have to be a U.S. citizen or a documented immigrant to get a protection order. You also do not need a lawyer in order to get a protection order, you can visit a local crisis intervention center and they will help you to file an application. Law enforcement will honor the protection order no matter what your immigration status.
All of the shelters in the country, including shelters in North Dakota will serve all victims of violence regardless of immigration status. If you are leaving an abusive situation, if possible, grab all identification and documentation possible as this will help shelter staff provide you with appropriate services.
Protection for children
Your partner may threaten to take your children if you leave. However, there are protections for your children if you have been a victim of abuse. If you apply for a protection order, you may also ask that your partner be required to stay away from you and you children. You can also apply for a custody order that requires that your children stay with you. Your partner may not apply for a U.S. passport for your children without your permission and if you inform the embassy of another country, you can stop the abusive partner from taking your children out of the country with a passport from that country as well. The more identification and documentation you have for your children, the easier it is to access these protections. However, crisis intervention centers across the state will help you regardless.
If you are a citizen of the U.S., a legal resident, or have a valid visa, you cannot be deported in the majority of cases. If you are undocumented, a crisis intervention center can help you find an immigration lawyer, there are lawyers who will help you at no charge. If you make a report of domestic violence to local law enforcement, they usually will not report you to immigration authorities. (Source)
Gaining residency or citizenship
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) creates two ways for immigrants who are married to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to gain residency.
The first way is by “self-petitioning.” You can apply for residency for yourself and your children. Your spouse plays no role in the process and does not have to know that you are applying for residency. You can apply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) or Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). However, immigration law is complicated and it is not recommended that you apply for residency without first consulting a crisis intervention center, immigration attorney or immigration agency for assistance.
The second way is called “cancellation of removal.” This is only available if you are in or are going to be placed in deportation proceedings. If you qualify for cancellation, the court must waive your deportation and grant you residency. You may want to see an immigration attorney before your apply for a cancellation.
There are other ways to gain residency outside of VAWA. You may be able to apply for U Visa which is a special route created for crime victims. The best thing you can do is talk to an immigration or domestic violence advocate first and they will be able to help you through the process.
Do not go to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) or Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) without a lawyer or consulting a lawyer. Your conversation with an attorney will be confidential, and they cannot report you to immigration authorities. Contact your local crisis intervention center or immigration organization for a referral to legal services near you. (Source)
If you are a victim of sexual or domestic violence, please contact your local crisis intervention center for assistance. Crisis intervention centers across North Dakota offer free and confidential services to all victims of violence. For a full list of local crisis intervention centers, click here.
For more resources about sexual and domestic violence, please click here. Or visit any of the following national resources:
Alianza: The National Latina Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence
Apna Ghar (Our Home)
Futures Without Violence
National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project
Women’s Justice Center/Centro de Justicia para Mujeres