Abused Immigrants Fear Deportation Over Self-Preservation

Victims often suffer in silence, unaware legal protections are in place for them

A Texas nonprofit is working to help women who fear the threat of deportation over their own self-preservation.

Attorneys with the Texas Civil Rights Project urge women who are undocumented immigrants and also victims of domestic violence to come forward and report the crimes against them.

Too often these women choose to suffer in silence because the shadow of deportation looms so large over every decision they make, according to Glenaan O’Neill, who is the Regional Director of Immigrant Victims Services for the Texas Civil Rights Project.

“We’re trying to push the message that you can call the police. You can trust them to protect you,” O’Neill said.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) the Violence Against Women Act ensures “victims of domestic violence who are the child, parent or current/former spouse of a United States citizen or a permanent resident and are abused by the citizen or permanent resident may be eligible to apply for a green card themselves without needing the abuser to file for immigration benefits on their behalf.”

These survivors of abuse can become eligible for U Non-immigrant Status, and obtain a U visa, if they are willing to help law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of their attacker.

Too often, the survivors are unaware of the protections that are in place, according to O’Neill, and feel isolated from any sort of help.

That situation is often exacerbated in the case of women who do not have legal status in the United States, but have children who are U.S. citizens.

“It becomes a horrible calculus if you’re a parent who is in this abusive situation where you’re thinking, ‘What do I have to put up with to keep a roof over my kid’s head?’” O’Neill said. “These women feel completely alone in every sense.”

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