28 Jun Protecting Immigrant Survivors of Abuse
While many of us know that law enforcement aims to keep our cities safe, some may be surprised to learn that the success of these efforts often depends on communities helping by reporting crimes and cooperating in investigations.
Unfortunately, according to the article “Fewer Immigrants are Reporting Domestic Abuse,” published by the New York Times on June 3, 2018, “Police departments in several cities with large Hispanic populations, including Los Angeles, Denver and San Diego, [have] experienced a decline in reports of domestic violence and sexual assault in their Hispanic communities.” The article goes on to explain that “Undocumented immigrants and even lawful immigrants are afraid to report crime” and that despite a drop in reports to the police, the Houston Area Women’s Center saw an increase in immigrant women seeking help.
Often misinformation is a contributing factor to these trends, which often leads to underreporting of crimes, especially domestic violence. To combat hesitancy in crime reporting, the United States government created a nonimmigrant visa, which is set aside for victims of crimes like domestic violence, human trafficking, or sexual assault who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse while in the U.S. and who are willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. This visa permits these survivors to enter or remain in the United States when they might not otherwise be able to do so.
One such survivor was Joe.
Joe sat terrified in his car, clutching his son Tommy as Joe’s wife banged on the car window, trying to break in. As he held his son, Joe debated whether he should call the police, but ultimately decided he could not risk involving them. Joe was undocumented and was afraid that if he called law enforcement, they would deport him and leave Tommy alone with no one to protect him.
Eventually, Jane gave up her efforts to break into Joe’s car and left the area. As Joe and Tommy got out of the car to go inside, Jane ran up and smashed a mirror over Joe’s head, leaving a gash. It was at this point that Joe finally called the police. When the police arrived and took Jane away, Joe was initially hesitant to cooperate with law enforcement but soon realized they were there to help. The officers connected Joe to WTLC, where legal advocates helped educate him about his options and assisted in his visa application.
The application process helped make Joe feel safer because he knew that he was protected from deportation and did not have to worry about being separated from his son. Joe gained the confidence to cooperate with law enforcement in their investigation, helping in their case against Jane.
Joe is just one of hundreds of participants that WTLC has aided in their immigration needs, helping to educate them about their rights and protections when they are victims of crime, and assisting with immigration relief through our Immigration Program. If you or someone you know is a survivor of intimate partner violence and needs immigration support, please call our 24/7 Helpline at 877-531-5522.