OVC Provider Forum Transcript

Victim Assistance for Undocumented/ Temporary Immigrants
Rupaleem Bhuyan, L. Patricia Ice  -  2011/9/21
NY's Office for Victim Services requires compensation claim applicants to provide a name, address and photo ID. This is currently preventing undocumented victims from receiving other than counseling services, especially victims of interpersonal, sexual violence who want to leave...
Please discuss the ramifications of new state anti-immigrant laws on the victim advocate.
1.  Vicki de M
 Our state coalition was not able to stop the law but did manage to get its sponsor to add certain provisions in an effort to mitigate its effects on victims, and since just before it went into effect, several of the worst provisions were enjoined. However, advocates who serve immigrants are afraid, as are the immigrant victims, and agencies who receive state funding are really not able to stand up against the legislature and the governer knowing that current and future funding will certainly be at risk. What can advocates really do?
2.  Rupaleem
 Considering the potential impacts of anti-immigrant laws on victim advocacy, I believe advocates and organizations will need to organize, within their organizations and across their states, to ensure clients can access services without fear. Organizations may need to seek legal advice to develop internal policies that ensure access to services. At the same time, there have been examples of successful advocacy in state where legislation was prevented from being passed into law. For example, Patricia Ice and the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance in collaboration with the State Black Legislative Caucus were able to block anti-immigrant legislation in Mississippi earlier this year.
How often do individuals in an abusive relationship seek help? What is the best way to approach someone you know is a victim to encourage them to seek help? How prevalent is domestic/family violence in the migrant farm culture?
1.  Anjana S
 Thank you. Being a bystander to domestic violence is very difficult but remembering that trying to help may be overstepping and actually making things worse. Thanks for the insight.
2.  Anjana S
 Thank you for your response. I will look into the resource you mentioned.
3.  Rupaleem
 With regard to violence in migrant populations, it is difficult to estimate the prevalence of violence considering the transient nature of this population. One study conducted a study of farm worker women across nine states, through migrant farm worker health clinics. In this study, women 19 of women reported that they had been physically or sexually abused by a husband, boyfriend or companion (see Hightower, et. al 2000 in the Journal of Family Violence). Certainly, low-income and minority women in rural settings are less likely to access services. More work is needed to build upon existing networks to bring visibility and support to women experiencing violence in rural settings.
4.  Rupaleem
 There is no easy way to support someone who is in an abusive relationship. If you are reaching out to a friend or family member, this can be even more challenging if you value the relationship. Abusers may also detect if someone is threatening his/her ability to assert control over his/her partner. I would recommend finding a confidential way to communicate to the person that you care about what happens to them, you do not feel they should be treated this way, and that if they ever want to talk about it, you are available. In the meantime, you can collect information about resources in your area for whenif this person is ready to seek outside help and support.
How can rights and available services be presented to this population when they run the risk of losing their employment any time there is a risk of contact by law enforcement? Employers use the threat of firing to keep their own employment violations hidden and this causes victims to remain vulnerable and unserved.
1.  Vicki de M
 Not all available services require that either the employer or law enforcement be notified if the victim seeks services. In fact, many social service agencies prohibit release of confidential information under VAWA (Violence Against Women Act). If employers are knowingly hiring undocumented workers and exploiting those workers with below minimum wage pay, overtime violations, threats and intimidation, the employer may be liable under the TVPA (Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act) and for which said victims may be eligible for immigration relief under the T-visa provisions. This may require the victimemployee to contact law enforcement or Department of Labor to report the crime but could have positive results in the end.
2.  Patricia Ice
 I believe it is a good idea to have "know your rights" presentations in the target community on a periodic basis. Here in Mississippi we do this. We also speak to law enforcement agencies about options for crime victims so that when they see cases where there might be available immigration relief they can bring it to our attention. However, we do not rely solely on law enforcement. We need ongoing effective campaigns to inform immigrants of their rights at all times. Churches, domestic violence shelters and other non-profit agencies can help tremendously with this outreach.
In New York,we do not ask the status of crime victims so undocumented victims are eligible for medical benefits for causally related injuries. The problem is when the victim has a medical issue not related to the crime and no medical benefits cover them. Is there any progress or program that can assist these victims?
1.  Vicki de M
 There are federally funded healthcare clinics that serve patients regardless of immigration status or insurance status. Check www.findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov for a clinic in your state
2.  Rupaleem
 Unfortunately, there are limited health benefit options for people who are undocumented; and these vary from state to state. Depending on the nature of the medical issue, I suggest working with health care facilities to screen their approach to working with undocumented, to ensure that accessing health services would not inadvertently put the individual at risk with ICE. I would then explore the payment options for people who require health care. In some cases, a health care facility may be able to set up a payment plan that is not too punitive, or can find ways to absorb costs. This, however, requires strategic advocacy to support the individuals rights to high quality health care.
We have developed a transnational response for undocumented victims of crime, particularly IPV crime.
What is the best way to reach out to this victim population to let them know about our services?
1.  Patricia Ice
 One way we reach out is to advertise non-profit services in the newspaper or online publication that features the target language. The Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance does this all the time. We also advertise on radio shows and in English language publications that cater to minorities and other vulnerable populations.
While a person is in the US, after applying for a visa and waiting on approval, are there resources she can access for financial assistance in the meantime? (money, food, housing, etc.)
1.  Carla Fisher
 In some circumstances they might be able to apply for minor children. Also found out that in NM, at least, the 5 year rule is waived for minor children when the family is applying under the VAWA provisions for victims of domestic violence.
2.  Rupaleem
 In most cases, someone who is applying for a visa will not be eligible for federal benefit public assistance, like food stamps while they are awaiting the approval for their visa. Eligibility also varies by state; in some states people must have permanent resident status and wait five years before being considered a qualified immigrant for federal benefits. Some states have programs with broader inclusion criteria to support immigrants. I suggest contacting your regional Department of Social and Health Services or National Immigration Law Center (www.nilc.org).
I am interested in learning more about public housing programs that may be able to provide assistance to undocumented. Would this type of assistance then affect their application for a T-Visa or residency?
1.  Rupaleem
 I am not aware of any public housing programs for undocumented immigrants or someone on a T-Visa at the federal level, which is the main funder for public housing in the U.S. While it is true that applications for permanent residency may scrutinize the use of public benefits, it is unlikely that someone who is undocumented or on a temporary visa would be eligible for public housing.
2.  Vicki de M
 HUD Transitional housing programs through domestic violence shelters, homeless agencies, and other emergency shelters are all options for undocumented immigrants. Most of these transitional housing programs are up to two years. Many public housing authorities have a mixed status family formula that pro-rates rent for families whose make-up consists of at least one eligible family member.
What advice can you offer for undocumented domestic violence victims who are awaiting U Visa approval and whose abuser has been deported, leaving them in financial crisis?
are there any trainings offered in california in regards to this process?
1.  Rupaleem
 I don't have specific information for trainings in California. However, there are numerous organizations doing excellent work some of which include: California Immigrant Policy Centre, http:www.caimmigrant.org - Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence, http://www.apiidv.org/research/violence-against-api-women.php - California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, http://www.cpedv.org/TrainingຈandຈEvents
I would like to see the ability to apply for a temporary work andor student visa when someone is going thru the VAWA self petition process and has received their prima facie letter. So they can work while they wait for their case to be determined.
Are either of the host moderators aware of proposed alterations to the current provision allowing services for undocumented victims? Do you know of proposed changes in service offerings at either Fed/DOJ, state or local levels? If reduced or eliminated services are being considered, what is the process and timeline?
Undocumented immigrants are utilizing NON-licensed foreign doctors, who are performing medical procedures in unsafety facilities.This is a very dangerus practice for them, What are your comments about that?
How long does a victim who is undocumented have to wait before he/she is provided assitance?
1.  Patricia Ice
 I'm not sure what assistance you are referring to, but if you mean public assistance such as food stamps or medicaid, the victim may never be eligible. If you are referring to medical assistance benefits under a state crime victim assistance program the waiting period varies from state to state. It could be from days or weeks to months. For example, I found that in Colorado, crime victims receive reimbursement for medical expenses quicker than crime victims do in Mississippi.
What kind of benefits are available for U-nonimmigrant (u-visa)? Are they considered PROCOL? Thank you.
1.  Rupaleem
 A Recipient of U nonimmigrant status may remain in the United States, for up to four years, then apply for permanent residency. However, federal programs and many states have a 5-year bar from public benefits (which means you must be considered a permanent resident for five years, before being eligible for public benefits). This poses significant barriers for women who need support for themselves and their children. A U-visa holder is eligible for work authorization. However, the U-visa holder is not considered a qualified immigrant for federal public benefit programs like food stamps, Medicaid, SSI. I Legal Momentum has a document that reviews what public benefits are accessible to different categories of battered immigrants and women who are undocumented. http://www.legalmomentum.org
How do you overcome the barriers of language for raid preparation trainings? It seems like most materials and workshops for immigrants are only in English or in Spanish.
1.  Patricia Ice
 I suggest finding volunteers who are bilingual in English and the target language and asking them for help. Sometimes country consular officials will assist with the translation of documents if you ask them. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ilrc.org) is also a good resource for translations in other languages.
How much does a lack of documentation affect an immigrant's U-visa application? Does it matter if they had previous legal documentation that lapsed versus if they came to the country without any documentation at all?
1.  Patricia Ice
 Lack of supporting documentation can severely hurt a U Visa application. Immigrants should provide as much supporting documentation to their U visa applications as possible, including police/arrest reports, medical reports, domestic violence shelter reports, etc. If a victim has an expired passport or other official identification document from their home country they can include a copy of the biographic page with the U visa application. If they don't have that, they can submit a birth certificate with an English translation. I suggest that all immigrants obtain a current passport from their country consular office in the U.S. Most immigrants are able to obtain a birth certificate, even if they have to get a family member in their home country to assist them.
Is there a time limit that is given to these undocumented victims to submit required documents?
What feedback can you give if an undocumented immigrant is a victim of domestic violence but is wanted by ICE for deportation. What assistance, if any can be provided to her?
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