Womens Reproductive Rights

In areas of our country near the U.S.-Mexican border, undocumented women are often afraid to report that they are victims of domestic violence for fear of being sent back to Mexico. Many of these women don't know anyone in the U.S. besides the husband or boyfriend who is their abuser. Thus, they become trapped in these abusive relationships.

The police chief of Presidio, Texas, says that "where one of the spouses is undocumented, they'll often get threatened by the abuser that they'll get deported" if they report the abuse to authorities. For women with children who were born in the U.S., it's worse because going back would mean being separated from their children, who are U.S. citizens under the law.

Zero Tolerance Policies Can Make Victims Less Likely to Report Abuse

The Presidio police chief says that, ironically, the zero tolerance policy regarding domestic abuse in Texas, has made it less likely that a victim of domestic violence will call the authorities. Under the policy, officers are required to arrest the alleged perpetrator if they believe that he or she committed an act of domestic violence.

Therefore, victims of abuse, fearing that immigration officials will get involved, are often afraid to call the police. The chief says that he's seen the number of domestic abuse cases in his area drop considerably since the early 2000s.

Legal Remedies Are Available

There are groups such as the Family Crisis Center, located in Big Bend, Texas, that offer counseling to women in these abusive relationships, as well as training in various skills. They also offer legal services to help victims of domestic violence acquire legal residency.

The Violence Against Women Act, passed by Congress in 1994, allows victims of domestic violence who are immigrants to apply for an immigrant visa and work permit. However, it can still take years for them to obtain legal residency. Thus, they may still not feel secure in their ability to remain in the U.S.

When immigrants to this country are victims of domestic violence, regardless of their legal status, immigration attorneys can work to help them obtain some type of legal status in this country so that their immigration status is no longer a weapon that can be used against them by an abuser. They can also help put them in touch with resources that help protect them as well as their children from an abuser.