October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and is so designated to shine a light on the right to live free from violence and to help survivors by fostering a supportive community.

According to statistics, every minute in the United States, twenty persons are victims of domestic violence. Unfortunately, immigrants and refugees are a particularly vulnerable of victims. Many undocumented immigrants find themselves in abusive relationships because of their illegal status, inability to work and limited resources. Because of these unique circumstances they also find it difficult to reach out for help.

Abuse can take many forms and can range from extremely violent physical abuse to subtle manipulation. The National Domestic Violence Hot Line provides guidance that immigrants should be aware of with respect to the tactics abusive partners often use to control their victims. These include:

Isolation: Preventing the victim from learning English or communicating with friends, family or others from their home countries.

Threats: Threatening deportation or withdrawal of petitions for legal status.

Intimidation: Destroying legal documents or papers needed in this country such as passports, resident cards, health insurance or driver’s licenses.

Manipulation Regarding Citizenship or Residency: Withdrawing or not filing papers for residency; lying by threatening that the victim will lose their citizenship or residency if they report the violence.

Economic Abuse: Getting the victim fired from their job or calling employers and falsely reporting that the victim is undocumented.

Children: Threatening to hurt children or take them away if the police are contacted.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), is a federal law that provides several forms of protection and relief to battered immigrant spouses and children. VAWA relief includes self-petitions for residency for abuses immigrants seeking a green card, and a waiver of the joint filing requirement on the I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residency for battered spouses which enables the victim to remove conditions on permanent resident status without the help of the abusive spouse.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently authorized the issuance of work permits to domestic violence victims who are the spouses of individuals with nonimmigrant visas such as the A, E-3, G or H visa. These victims may now apply using Form I-765V Application for Employment Authorization for Abused Nonimmigrant Spouse. This will allow more immigrant victims the ability to seek independence and safety from their abuser.

If you or a loved one is a victim of domestic violence, rest assured, federal law gives undocumented immigrants a way to adjust and make a fresh start. Get started today by having a free consultation with the immigration attorney’s at HAWM Law.

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