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“Violence Against Undocumented Women”

Author: Nathalie Rodriguez

Department: UIC Institute for Policy & Civic Engagement

Advisor: Dr. Joseph K. Hoereth, IPCE

Abstract: In 1994 the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was created in recognition of the severity of crimes associated with Domestic Violence (DV). Soon after the VAWA would be reauthorized to criminalize crimes like Sexual Assault (SA), Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), Stalking, and Human Trafficking against women in the United States. VAWA was originally meant for women that are U.S citizens, but did include two forms of immigrant relief known as "VAWA self-petitioning and VAWA suspension of deportation". When reauthorized in 2000, VAWA offered undocumented women experiencing DV, SA, or human trafficking, protections through the usage of U-Visas and T-Visas. In 2005, protections extended to undocumented women experiencing IPV, and offered better training for health care providers to assist victims of SA and DV. VAWA enables access to grants, programs and offers protections for undocumented survivors of these crimes. The purpose of this policy analysis is to raise awareness regarding the limitations of VAWA when it comes to undocumented women, who continue to suffer in silence. Studies have shown that immigrant women are less likely to report DV cases due to fear of retaliation, re-victimization, language barriers, and citizenship status. In 2012 about 75% of immigrant battered women reported that their spouse had never filed for immigration applications making the survivors feel unsafe to report since their citizenship status was undefined (Lau, 2021). The VAWA was intended to serve as a protection for women regardless of their legal status yet, there are various loopholes that can prevent immigrant women from obtaining the help they need. Although the VAWA immigration relief is offered through “Self-Petition”, access to U-Visa & T-Visa eligibility, violence against undocumented women results in substantial and perpetual economic, physical, and mental health repercussions to this day. Recommendations call for more protections to be offered despite the citizenship status of the offender. Rather if the crime was committed on U.S soil, VAWA should offer protection to the victims of that crime. Language in the policy should be approached from a more intersectional perspective, this more specified language would help protect more people. A call for more access to cost efficient legal services should be promoted, so that women who struggle financially can afford to seek legal assistance.

Keywords: Violence Against Women's Act (VAWA), Immigration, Women, Domestic Violence, Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Assault, Intimate Partner Violence, Stalking