There is a large unmet need for immigration legal services for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking. Abusers, offenders and perpetrators of crime often use a person's lack of immigration status as a principal control mechanism and a means of exploitation. If immigration legal services are local and available then survivors of crime may regularize their status and be able to leave the abusive relationship or cooperate fully with law enforcement to convict the offender. Lack of capacity to respond to immigration issues puts survivors of crime at a severe disadvantage.
Throughout the country immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault are often fearful to access legal services or law enforcement because of their legal status. Misinformation leads them to believe that asking for help will lead to their deportation and in some cases, when they do reach out for help, they do not receive proper assistance because of lack of training and misinformation on the part of providers. Many of these survivors do qualify for relief under US immigration law. It is critical that domestic violence and sexual assault advocates are able to address one of their most fundamental needs, to obtain legal status. This project works with domestic violence and sexual assault advocates who wish to establish immigration programs within their existing organizational structures, train their staff on starting and maintaining a legal immigration program and provide them with the knowledge about immigration legal benefits that are available to battered immigrants and skills for delivering immigration legal services.
Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) Recognition & Accreditation (R&A) is the Department of Justice's certification of nonprofit legal immigration programs and their staff. BIA R & A is a process whereby non attorney advocates working at recognized charitable programs can become legally authorized to practice immigration law. There are over 950 recognized organizations with 1800 accredited representatives practicing immigration law and providing low cost immigration services to immigrants and their families. Domestic violence and sexual assault advocates are perfect candidates for BIA accreditation because of their experience working with survivors of trauma, special interviewing skills, access to information that would support an application for U/VAWA or T status, and long-standing relationships with law enforcement and certifying agencies.
The BIA R&A process is open to nonprofit religious, charitable, social service, or similar organization and allows for its non attorney employees or volunteers to become accredited to practice immigration law with authorization. CLINIC staff have committed to providing grantees with one-on-one technical assistance with the BIA recognition and accreditation process. CLINIC is the lead agency working to develop and improve the management of charitable legal programs for immigrants, having established or assisted one-third of all BIA recognized agencies and almost half of all BIA accredited representatives. The following link provides the current BIA roster of national immigration legal service providers recognized with accredited staff by state: http://www.justice.gov/eoir/ra/raroster.htm.
With the support of the Office on Violence Against Women, through its project, Building Legal Capacity to Combat Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Against Immigrants CLINIC provides grantees with substantive immigration law training and assistance with the application for BIA recognition and accreditation. The primary objective of the project is to create and enhance immigration legal services to battered immigrants across the country in underserved communities, including rural areas. The Project will work with domestic violence and sexual assault advocates to establish immigration programs within their existing organizational structures, train their staff on starting and maintaining a legal immigration program, and provide them with the knowledge and skills for delivering legal immigration services. CLINIC will work to increase the number of BIA recognized agency locations and accredited staff in order to respond to the immigration legal services needs of immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.