19 Apr Jean Breaks Free
Jean didn’t go to the police for help because her husband had threatened to call ICE and have her deported if she ever told anyone about his physical and emotional abuse. She stayed in this violent relationship for over six years while he fed her misinformation about what would happen if she ever left him.
He told her their children would be taken away from her because of her undocumented status. He said they would be put into foster care and she would be sent far away, never to see them again. He told her that he would go to jail and their children would be left all alone.
Afraid for her children’s well-being, Jean stayed quiet and simply endured the abuse, until the situation became so bad that she couldn’t stay any longer. Her husband had trapped her in their home for four days, completely isolated from the outside world. On the fourth day Jean saw an opportunity when her husband left the house for a short time—she escaped and went straight to the police, deciding she had no choice left but to take the risk. After making a report with the police, she and her children were given a criminal restraining order against her husband, and Jean was referred to WTLC for Personal Empowerment Program (PEP) classes. At PEP, Jean began learning about domestic violence, independence, and empowerment. At one of these classes, the facilitator connected her to WTLC’s Legal Advocacy Program for support in her immigration concerns.
Jean came to WTLC and met with a Legal Advocate, who explained the process of applying for a U visa—a nonimmigrant visa that is available to victims of crime who help law enforcement investigate and prosecute related criminal activity. Jean learned that myths about the legal system are often used to manipulate and control survivors of abuse, but that there are actually protections in place to help victims of crime find recovery through the court system.
WTLC offers various services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. One such service is immigration aid through the use of accredited representatives. WTLC has been a Department of Justice Accredited and Recognized Agency since 2016 and has a team of accredited representatives who assist undocumented survivors with their immigration needs.
Threats of deportation are one of the most potent tools abusers of immigrant victims use to maintain control over and silence their victims to avoid criminal prosecution. Moreover, reporting these types of crimes is especially challenging in immigrant communities since victims often face additional cultural, linguistic, and immigration barriers to safety. In October of 2000, Congress created legislation designed to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking of aliens. This included the creation of the U nonimmigrant classification, which helps survivors like Jean find safety from abuse without fear of deportation.
With the support of WTLC’s accredited representatives, Jean was able to gather all of the documents required to apply for a U visa and submit her application to immigration. While the road ahead is still long, Jean is hopeful about her future and is patiently waiting for the day she receives her U visa approval letter in the mail.