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VAWA Immigration Project

CLINIC works to help immigrant survivors of domestic violence and victims of trafficking and enslavement by offering training and technical assistance to agencies providing direct assistance to this population.  In particular, CLINIC offers advocate training sessions on the types of immigration relief available to survivors of abuse and other crimes, as well as, direct technical assistance to affiliate offices that represent survivors of crime. CLINIC also provides training and technical assistance on program management issues to agencies looking to start or expand their immigration services to serve this population.   This may include training and consultation on obtaining Board of Immigration Appeals recognition and accreditation, case management, financial management and outreach. 

Foreign-born women are likely to stay in abusive relationships if they rely on being married to a citizen or permanent resident to legalize their immigration status. Without this status, undocumented women cannot legally work or become economically independent. These women are often trapped in violent relationships because they fear deportation, separation from their children, and impoverishment. Too often, their plight is unseen, unheard, and unresolved.

Victims of trafficking and enslavement--particularly women and children removed from their families--are also vulnerable to crime, as their undocumented status makes it more difficult for them to come forward and identify themselves as victims in need of help. Having migrated to the United States due to desperate economic circumstances in their home countries, many trafficked workers find themselves enslaved or indentured to pay off immense transportation debts. Others are lured to the United States with the promise of a well-paying job, but instead find themselves forced to work in sweatshops, agricultural fields, or as prostitutes.

Various obstacles prevent immigrant survivors of domestic violence and victims of trafficking and enslavement from seeking help, including poverty, fear of being alone, and cultural and language barriers. However, there are a number of legal options that these victims can pursue under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, and the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act.

To help meet the needs of these vulnerable populations, CLINIC has:

  • Authored two manuals entitled The VAWA Manual: Immigration Relief for Abused Immigrants (written with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center under a generous grant from the California Endowment) and A Guide for Legal Advocates Providing Services to Victims of Human Trafficking (written with MRS and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles under generous grants from the Office of Refugee and Resettlement);
  • Produced a manual entitled Immigration Relief for Abused Immigrants for its member agencies on visa applications;
  • Advocated with federal immigration authorities on new or existing immigration regulations affecting immigration survivors of domestic violence and other crimes; 
  • Provided trainings and legal technical support on VAWA, T and U visa applications; and
  • Provided trainings and technical assistance on starting or expanding their immigration services to assist immigrant survivors of domestic violence and other crimes.

For additional information on the VAWA Immigration Project, please contact Jack Holmgren at  jholmgren@cliniclegal.org or 415-394-8074.