How immigration reform can help immigrant victims of violence

One of many arguments for immigration reform is that by bestowing legal status on undocumented immigrants, domestic violence can be prevented because undocumented women will feel more confident seeking help from law enforcement.

Lynn Rosenthal, the White House’s adviser on violence against women, wrote on the White House blog that both documented and undocumented Immigrant victims of domestic violence are less likely to report crimes against them or to seek police assistance because they are afraid that they or their families could be deported. Immigration reform can help to bring those victims out of the shadows and cast a light on the injustices victims of violence have had to endure.

According to the House sponsor for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) update, Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, significant challenges stand between immigrant victims of violence and justice. In some cases, both the victim and the abuser are arrested during a domestic violence call. This can occur if the police officers are unable to understand the situation due to language barriers, or if the police fail to obtain an interpreter. Some immigrant women victims have their immigration status used as leverage by their abuser who threatens to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement if there is any attempt to seek help. Exploitation in the workplace is a threat for many undocumented women, who can experience poor working conditions, sexual abuse and harassment, and wage theft because they cannot legally obtain work authorization.

There is also a program called “Secure Communities,” which requires police to run the fingerprints of immigrants who have been arrested to check their immigration status. This sometimes results in the detention or even deportation of the immigrant victim, which tears them away from their children and family.

Advocates for immigrant rights are pushing for reform to stop the injustices against immigrant victims. Many Americans believe that all women across the country, regardless of their citizenship status, deserve protection. Rep. Moore explains in her blog that, “it is the unwavering policy of the United States that we do not tolerate domestic violence against any woman – regardless of who she is or where she comes from.”