One provision makes it a felony for an unauthorized immigrant to enter into a business transaction with the state of Alabama. Another makes certain contracts invalid between undocumented immigrants and other people, such as rental agreements. That means a domestic abuse victim escaping her abuser could be limited in her ability to be independent.
“The law hasn’t been fully implemented or interpreted by Alabama officials, which leaves us without clear answers regarding the risks that immigrants families may be subject to,” Broder said. Broder and Gundlach also stress that not only domestic violence victims who are undocumented will be affected.
“If the perpetrator is undocumented, many people would assume the victim wants them deported, but that’s often not true,” Gundlach said. “They want him to stop being violent, they don’t want to lose child support or see him deported and have the children go into the child welfare system. That’s a pretty strong deterrent to calling law enforcement.”
Anyone who lives with undocumented immigrants may also be hesitant to call police, even if he or she is a U.S. citizen. Someone who is in the application process for legal status might also be concerned about creating problems for their application by calling police. The list of possible manifestations goes on and on.
“It’s so complicated,” Broder said. “The kinds of decisions they have to make—what’s safe for them to do and when it’s safe for them to do it—it’s a delicate balance. We have worked with many police officers who know the importance of working with these communities to build trust, to work with immigrant communities in particular and domestic violence survivors in general. They can’t do that if people are afraid to call on them. But the idea of calling the police to help when the police could put you in detention, your children or your partner, those are impossible decisions.”
There are special visas available for domestic abuse survivors. The Violence Against Women Act includes provisions to help women married to a green card holding spouse to get on a path to lawful permanent residence if they are escaping an abusive relationship. The U visa also helps crime victims, including domestic violence victims, to get temporary legal status, work eligibility and a pathway to lawful permanent residence.
“Domestic violence survivors should know that there’s a network of people who are there to help and support them,” Broder said. “They are not alone.”
Each year, U.S. women experience 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty-five percent of U.S. women will report being physically assaulted or raped by an intimate partner in their lifetime. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). The Southern Poverty Law Center has also created a hotline, which can be reached at 1-800-982-1620, to educate Alabama residents on their rights.
This post first appeared on the site of the Women’s Media Center.
Photo by taberandrew via Creative Commons
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