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Civil Justice Practitioners

Non-Citizen Victims

Non-citizen victims face actual and perceived barriers to obtaining the civil remedies that can assist in their recovery. Victims without legal status are especially vulnerable and isolated from the remedies that can help protect them.38 Fear and misinformation prevents many undocumented and non-citizen victims from applying for and receiving the safety protections, medical assistance, counseling, housing, and employment benefits victims are qualified to receive.39

Despite common perceptions and information to the contrary, some public services are available to individuals without any status qualification, meaning that providers should not inquire into a client's immigration status or require a social security number in order to provide services. According to the Final Specification of Community Programs Necessary for Protection of Life or Safety Under Welfare Reform Legislation (66 C.F.R. §§ 3613–3616 (2001)), available services include the following:

Undocumented and non-immigrant victims may be reluctant to access government benefits to which they are entitled because they fear being declared a public charge (i.e., someone who is or will become primarily dependent on the U.S. government for subsistence), a determination that can be the basis for denials of future applications to remain in the United States.40

A sexual assault may also disrupt or alter a victim's immigration status. For example, if a victim is in the United States on a student visa and drops out of school as a result of the assault, she may lose her legal status. Non-immigrant victims with employment-based visas are similarly at risk of being deported or losing legal status if they are dismissed from or quit work as a result of an assault. To address these issues, the Federal Government created a visa specifically for victims of sexual abuse, trafficking, and many other crimes. Under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-386, 114 Stat. 1464), the U-Visa is available to victims who report the crime to law enforcement officials and cooperate in criminal investigations. Victims who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity, including sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, and felonious assault, are eligible for the 3-year visa and can receive work authorization.