Fighting for immigrant DV survivors, despite limits in the law

Below is a guest post from Nubia Willman, a supervisory attorney in LAF’s Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice Group.

At LAF, we’re used to working with limited resources. No fancy messengers to deliver filings, no administrative assistance to put together trial exhibits—none of the frills you expect in a major law firm. Even without those resources, we work hard with what we have because we know that our ultimate tool, the legal system, is supposed to be open and available to all.

In 1996, our funding restrictions changed our ability to represent undocumented immigrants. We were limited to only representing those who were survivors of domestic violence or other serious crimes. Since then, we have advocated for domestic violence survivors seeking legal relief from all around the world. We know how resilient and brave our clients are in the face of horrible, humiliating, life-threatening situations.

Clients like Bhavika, who entered the United States on an H4 visa with her husband. A husband who abused her, threatened to set her on fire, and then demanded she return to India so he could have her committed.

Or like Juan, whose citizen wife physically assaulted him and threatened to murder their children if he didn’t obey her.

Or like Roberta, who fled from Guatemala after her husband strangled her until she blacked out. This confirmed to Roberta that the years of abuse she endured would result in her death.

Roberta fled to the U.S. and sought help at LAF. Through a four-year process, we successfully obtained asylum for her based on the domestic violence she suffered in her home country.

Now, the recent decision by Attorney General Sessions that domestic violence can no longer serve as grounds for asylum erases a remedy for thousands of women like Roberta, who are fleeing to the U.S. to save their lives. The inability to apply for DV-based asylum will result in the death and torture of countless women.

The loss of this remedy also creates a chilling effect for other victims of domestic violence, clients like Bhavika and Juan, who experienced DV in the U.S. and now fear that our country doesn’t value protecting victims of inter-family violence.

This decision limits the legal relief available to so many, yet at LAF we’ve adapted to making due with limited options. We will continue to fight for all survivors of domestic violence—both in and out of immigration proceedings—to ensure their safety and access to the legal system. We will continue to use all tools at our disposal and fight for all appropriate forms of legal relief for all our clients.

You can join us in that fight! Share this post and like our page on Facebook—let others know what good work LAF is doing. And if you feel moved, make a donation so we can continue to help even more Bhavikas, Juans, and Robertas.

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