Why is the mission of Mil Mujeres so important?
The mission of Mil Mujeres is very important because we provide direct legal services in the area of immigration law to low-income Spanish-speaking survivors of gender violence. In addition, we have also helped hundreds of victims of many other crimes in the United States. Our work has had an enormous impact in the Latino community. We encourage people to report crimes, stop abusive situations, and help create secure communities. At the same time, we provide the opportunity to thousands of immigrants to obtain legal status in the U.S., opening doors for victims and their families to have a better future.
Can you share a case that personifies the work of Mil Mujeres:
A moving case that puts the work of Mil Mujeres into perspective is that of a Mexican woman named Julia. Julia lived in poverty and worked as a maid to support her family. While working, Julia fell in love with a man who promised her a better future and more money. Thereafter, he introduced Julia to prostitution. Unhappy with her life, Julia reached out to her boyfriend for help. The man encouraged Julia to travel to the U.S. to work as a waitress. After crossing the border and relocating to New York City, Julia found herself a victim of human trafficking, in the midst of an international network of prostitution.
Several years later, Julia met a man who helped to free her from the pimps. Unfortunately, Julia returned to prostitution after finding no other means to survive economically. Arrested in the middle of a police investigation, Julia collaborated with law enforcement and regained her freedom with the help of staff at Mil Mujeres.
Sadly, stories like Julia’s are not rare. This video, featuring the case of another strong woman, illuminates the experiences of other Mil Mujeres clients: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SjGA-NteO8&feature=youtu.be
Mil Mujeres has seen extensive growth—to what do you attribute this growth?
We have been able to build capacity by strengthening our legal team with Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) recognition and the accreditation of our staff. Our legal team works extremely hard in providing high quality services.
Furthermore, the growth of the organization is the result of fruitful collaborations. We have been able to work with other organizations in the United States that provide services for victims of violence such as La Clinica del Pueblo, Empowerhouse, Family Place, SAFE, OLA, Bread for the city, among others. This network has been very helpful in Mil Mujeres’ community outreach.
Finally, we also have a community outreach program through which we talk to the community directly about their legal rights as victims of crime. Weekly, we make presentations aimed at explaining the benefits of U Visa, VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) and DACA (Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals) in the consulates of El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala, located in the DC Metro area.
How has CLINIC supported Mil Mujeres in expanding the provision of quality immigration legal services?
CLINIC has been critical for Mil Mujeres to expand the provision of quality legal services. Mil Mujeres' staff attorneys and paralegals have taken advantage of CLINIC legal trainings not only to have the necessary knowledge to handle our cases, but also to be able to obtain BIA accreditation. In addition, our legal team also uses the CLINIC legal support line in order to ensure the quality of our legal advice.
Are there elements of U.S. Immigration policy you would like to see change to better uphold the well being of abused immigrant women?
Raising the annual U-Visa cap, and creating a process for U-Visa derivatives living outside the United States to obtain deferred action while their application is pending, as is currently done for the U-visa principal and derivatives who are living inside the United States. This is important because these derivatives outside the United States are young children who live in constant fear and danger while their application is pending.