Immigrants are especially defenseless because many do not speak English well, and they are separated from family and friends, and they may not understand the laws of the United States. For these reasons, immigrants are often afraid to report acts of domestic violence to the police or to seek other forms of assistance. This fear causes many immigrants to remain in abusive relationships.
What is domestic violence? Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior when one intimate partner or spouse threatens or abuses the other partner. Abuse may include physical harm, forced sexual relations, emotional manipulation (including isolation or intimidation), and economic or immigration-related threats.
Domestic violence may include sexual assault, child abuse and other violent crimes. Under all circumstances, domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse are illegal in the United States. All people in the United States are guaranteed protection from abuse under the law. Any victim of domestic violence – regardless of immigration or citizenship status – can seek help. An immigrant victim of domestic violence may also be eligible for immigration related protections.
American family law governing families provide you with:
- The right to obtain a protection order for you and your child(ren).
- The right to legal separation or divorce without the consent of your spouse.
- The right to ask for custody of your child(ren) and financial support.
Consult a family lawyer who works with immigrants to discuss how any of these family law options may affect or assist you. Under
U.S. law, any crime victim, regardless of immigration or citizenship status, can call the police for help or obtain a protection order.
Call the police at 911 if you or your child(ren) are in danger. The police may arrest your fiancé(e), spouse, partner, or another person if they believe that person has committed a crime. You should tell the police about any abuse that has happened, even in the past, and show any injuries. Anyone, regardless of immigration or citizenship status, may report a crime.
Likewise, if you are a victim of domestic violence you can apply to a court for a protection order. A court-issued protection order or restraining order may tell your abuser not to call, contact or hurt you, your child(ren), or other family members. If your abuser violates the protection order, you can call the police. Applications for protection orders are available at most courthouses, police stations, women’s shelters and legal service offices.
Q1. What services are available to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in the United States?A.1. In the United States, victims of crime, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status, can access help provided by government or non-governmental agencies, which may include counseling, interpreters, safety planning, emergency housing and even monetary assistance.
Q2. If I am a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or other crime, what immigration options are available to me?
A.2. There are three situations when the law allows conditional residents to request a waiver of the requirement that the spouse file jointly to get a permanent Green Card.
1) The removal of a conditional resident from the U.S. would result in extreme hardship, or
2) The marriage was legally terminated, and the applicant was not at fault for failing to file a timely application to remove the conditional residency, or
3) During the marriage the spouse subjected the conditional resident to battery or extreme cruelty.
All three waivers are filed on Form I-751 and require you to prove your marriage was in “good faith” and not fraudulent.