Victims of domestic violence can have a hard time walking away from their abuser. For those who are undocumented, that challenge can be exacerbated by fears of revealing their immigration status.
The Texas Civil Rights Project, a nonprofit focusing on legal advocacy, is working to help this community with their Immigrant Victims Services Program. On Oct. 8, in conjunction with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the nonprofit will host an event called “Families Against Violence,” during which the community can donate things needed by shelters in their service areas. They will also be helping attendees register to vote.
“Immigrants are uniquely vulnerable to abuse,” said Glenaan O’Neil, regional director of the Immigrant Victims Services Program at the Texas Civil Rights Project. “They are incredibly dependent upon spouses with immigration status in this country.”
Started in 2003, the program provides free legal services to immigrant survivors of domestic violence who live in underserved communities in Texas, particularly in rural areas where they may be culturally, linguistically and geographically isolated. The goal is to help immigrant victims of abuse leave their abusers and become self-sufficient.
“Not a lot of people are aware that there’s only one shelter for every 12 counties out in the middle of Texas,” said O’Neil. “They’re incredibly overburdened and need help.”
In the past year, the Texas Civil Rights Project provided legal services to 1,500 immigrant victims of abuse. They offer training for shelters, schools and law enforcement officials about legal remedies available for immigrants, such as the U visa, which offers legal status to immigrants who are victims of crimes.
By Lucia Benavides for Statesman
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