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Deportation and Domestic Violence

Values: Everyone deserves to live free from violence and fear.

Government has a responsibility to ensure that all survivors of domestic violence are treated fairly and with their best interests in mind, regardless of immigration status.

Problem: Immigration laws can hurt domestic violence survivors and their families.

The issue of deportation and domestic violence is complicated. Incidences of domestic violence are often nuanced and call for a measured, sensitive response that takes into consideration the wellbeing and security of everyone involved. Immigration laws add a layer of complexity that can make an already difficult, potentially dangerous situation even more so.

  • Fear of harsh immigration consequences often prevents survivors from coming forward.

    If domestic violence survivors fear that reporting abuse will result in their deportation, they are much less likely to seek help from law enforcement. Often, abusive partners exploit this fear to prevent survivors from seeking help.

  • Deportation may not be in the interests of survivors and their children.

    Domestic violence survivors also often reject policies that would remove their spouses or partners from the United States, an outcome that would be disastrous for families that rely on them for financial and other support.

  • Relief from deportation for survivors is unduly restricted.

    So-calledU-visas” offer potential legal status to survivors of domestic violence who cooperate with police, while the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) created special routes to legal status for certain domestic violence survivors who are immigrants. But demand far outstrips supply of U-visas, and relief under VAWA is not available to people with convictions for any of a wide range of criminal offenses.

  • Grounds for deportation are over-broad.

    Violation of certain portions of a domestic violence protective order (also known as a “stay away” order) is a basis for deportation even if the violation did not involve domestic violence. (Common violations such as contacting or coming within a specified distance of a survivor can be grounds for deportation.)

Solution: Enact policies that protect the interests of domestic violence survivors and their families.

  • Limit grounds of deportation for domestic violence offenses and violations
  • Expand mechanisms that will allow judges to assess all the circumstances in someone’s case, including whether deporting an individual convicted of domestic violence would subject his or her children or spouse to extreme hardship
  • Expand availability of U-Visas: Make visas available to more survivors of domestic violence by increasing the number of visas and loosening restrictions on eligibility
  • Expand availability of VAWA waivers so that more survivors with criminal records can seek relief from deportation under the Violence Against Women Act
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