Strengthening Rights and Protection for Immigrant Victims
Immigrant women are more likely to confront poverty, violence and exploitation than any other demographic in America. While apparently gender-neutral, our national immigration policies often place women at a disadvantage, compromising their personal and economic security.
Legal Momentum’s Immigrant Women Program (IWP) is a national leader in understanding and addressing the unique challenges confronting immigrant women. Through IWP, Legal Momentum raises public awareness of these challenges, and works with federal agencies and Congress to develop better policies for this particularly vulnerable group. IWP trains advocates, service providers, and law enforcement personnel working with immigrant women on the rights of immigrant victims of violence, domestic abuse, exploitation and sexual assault. Likewise IWP provides trainings and comprehensive curriculum for advocates working to secure the safety and rights of immigrant women.
Issues - Training & Technical Assistance
IWP offers training and technical assistance to advocates, attorneys, social services and health care providers, justice system personnel and other professionals who encounter battered immigrant women, immigrant victims of crime, sexual assault or trafficking in their work. Our technical assistance is provided to support these professionals in offering services to immigrant victims and immigrant women in their communities.
Immigrant Victims of Violence
Domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking are widespread in the United States, affecting individuals of virtually every racial, ethnic, gender, age and socioeconomic group - including immigrant women. IWP provides training to improve access to legal protections for immigrant women and their children who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, and other crimes.
Family Law for Immigrants
Immigrant victims of violence often encounter gender and/or race bias when they turn to the justice system for help in domestic violence, family and criminal law cases. These biases undermine immigrant women’s ability to obtain effective protection orders, legal custody of their children, child support and to cooperate in the criminal prosecution of their abusers. IWP provides training to improve justice system responses to immigrant victims of violence.
Public Benefits for Immigrant Women
Generally, with some important exceptions, only immigrants who have been legally residing in the country for five years can access public benefits like TANF and Medicaid. However, immigrant women suffering domestic violence may be able to qualify for benefits earlier depending on their state’s rules for such waivers. IWP works to increase access to life-saving benefits for immigrant women.
- IWP's Resources and Publications Related to Public Benefits for Immigrant Women →
- TANF for Immigrant Women →
Many victims of violence do not report for fear of retribution or retaliation from their abusers. Provisions in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and its reauthorizations prohibit justice system professionals from sharing personally identifying information about victims without "reasonably time-limited" written and informed consent. IWP provides training on this issue from the immigrant victim context.
Language Access and Cultural Competency
Immigrant women’s ability to access the services they need to overcome domestic and sexual violence and to escape poverty is hampered by barriers imbedded in the systems victims turn to for help. These include: lack of language accessibility; justice, social services and health care personnel who lack knowledge about immigrant victims’ legal rights; incorrect assumptions about the immigrant woman’s culture; and anti-immigrant sentiment. IWP provides training and technical assistance for service providers and law enforcement professionals so that they can better assist and serve immigrant women.
- IWP's Resources and Publications on Language Access →
- IWP's Resources and Publications on Cultural Competency →
Issues - Public Policy
Immigration Relief for Victims
Immigrant crime victims are often afraid to leave abusive relationships or report crimes because of their immigration status. Whether they are undocumented or in the country legally, but dependent upon a spouse’s visa, deportation is a constant threat. IWP advocates on behalf of these victims, a particularly vulnerable subset of immigrant women. Though legislative advocacy on the Violence Against Women Act and other laws, and administrative advocacy to implement these important protections, IWP ensures that immigrant victims access immigration relief and protection from deportation. In particular, IWP has led efforts to advocate for legislation like the U-visa, as well as ensure effective implementation through administrative advocacy, training and technical assistance.
Throughout the country, victims of trafficking are trapped in factories, homes, and brothels, often with little command of English and no awareness of how they can get help. In combating human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery, IWP advocates for immigration and other services for trafficked people in the United States. IWP has fought to create and expand T-visa protections and other services to ensure that trafficking victims have secure immigration status and avoid re-exploitation. Through successful leadership in support of the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and subsequent reauthorizations, IWP continues to be at the forefront of this important human rights issue.
Confidentiality and Victim Protection
The Violence Against Women Act contains a number of confidentiality protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Very frequently, perpetrators will threaten deportation as a means of controlling immigrant victims. Drawing from its expertise in immigration law, family law, and immigrants’ access to services, IWP leads efforts that have resulted in legislation and implementation of protections to address this fundamental problem. The protections include non-disclosure of immigration-based filings, prevention of immigration enforcement based solely on the information of a perpetrator, and prohibition of immigration enforcement actions at particular locations where a crime victim might be seeking services and protections.
In the context of immigration enforcement and some family law proceedings, lack of reasonable language access can result in permanent family separation and loss of legal rights and access to services. Legal Momentum advocates for meaningful language access rights for immigrant women, including access to interpreters in court proceedings, while seeking services, in accessing law enforcement protection, and in interactions with federal agencies relating to immigration processes.
Public Benefits for Immigrant Women
Generally, with some important exceptions, only immigrants who have been legally residing in the country for five years can access public benefits like TANF and Medicaid. However, immigrant women suffering domestic violence may be able to qualify for benefits earlier depending on their state’s rules for such waivers. Legal Momentum works to increase access to life-saving benefits for immigrant women.
Access to public benefits is especially important for immigrant victims of domestic violence. Immigrant women are consistently one of the most at-risk populations in the nation, experiencing the highest rates of personal violence, as well as the poorest. Access to public benefits such as TANF, Medicaid, and housing assistance can make the difference between staying with an abuser and taking steps to personal security.
IWP improves immigrant women's access to justice and services by passing legislation, working within federal, state, and local agencies to change harmful practices, securing favorable agency regulations, writing amicus briefs, working across broad coalitions with other social justice organizations. Much of IWP's Public Policy work focuses on violence against immigrant women.