Advocates File Suit for Immigrant Women
Tuesday, March 27, 2007 11:43 AM

On March 6, advocates filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on behalf of immigrant women who are survivors of domestic violence.  The suit is meant to pressure government to put in place the regulations to enforce Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act.  The law was passed in 2000, but the protection measures in place for undocumented women who are victims of violent crimes, including domestic violence, have yet to be realized.

The law allows for victims to apply for a U-Visa when they assist law enforcement officials investigating and prosecuting the crimes against them.  Following three years of maintaining the U-Visa, women are supposed to be eligible for a green card based on humanitarian grounds.  As yet, the Department of Homeland Security has not issued a single U-Visa.  Instead, many women are forced to live in legal limbo, in terms of their immigration status.  The advocates hope that simply filing the suit will push DHS to issue the regulations necessary for effective implementation of the law.  A spokesperson for the government points to bureaucracy and the effects on multiple departments as reason for the continued delay.

Los Angeles based organization Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law brought the suit in partnership with several other organizations across the country that also assist immigrant victims of crimes.  Because advocates cannot request the U-Visa for their clients, they must instead ask for deferred status (offered on a year-to-year basis), stretching the resources and causing a backlog for immigrants' rights organizations. 

The delay in implementation also has devastating effects on the women and children it is meant to protect.  Women are unable to file to bring their children to the United States, who may be facing abuse from their deported fathers.  In addition, they are unable to access a variety of social services, for themselves and their children currently living in the United States because of their undetermined immigration status.  Advocates believe that DHS is indifferent to clients that would fall under these protections, and recognize their limited political power.

Compiled from: "U.S. Challenged on Immigrant Women's Legal Limbo," by Adriana Gardella, Womens Enews, 27 March 2007.