Refugees – Victims of Trafficking and Domestic Violence

Abusers have many tactics they use to control their victims, such as physical and emotional abuse. Besides, immigrant victims may be subject to violence because of their cultural, linguistic, and migratory differences.

Abusers can manipulate and distort the beliefs of their victims.

Immigrant victims can:
• Think they can be arrested or deported if they contact the police.
• Fear to lose their immigration status.
• Believe that they can lose custody of their citizen children if they have no status
• Fear that the abuser may abduct (kidnap) and take their children to another country.
• Fear revenge against family members in their home country.
• Fear revenge, isolation, or stigma of family members or
• Lack of knowledge of legal and social systems.
• Not being able to access services because of not knowing or speaking very poor English.

“He forced me to give him the money I earned and told me it was for the house expenses. When I didn’t have enough money to cover the costs, he yelled at me and said to me that it didn’t matter where I got the money from. If it didn’t do it, I would have to pay the consequences. He was telling me, ‘You know what’s going to happen to you!’ And what he meant were beatings and insults. – Rohingya, from Myanmar.
Regardless of their immigration status, victims have the right to:

Call the refugee support network
to receive confidential assistance and
• Receive therapy (counseling) and
free support services
• Receive help to understand the
legal systems
• Learn about your options
legal including matters
migratory related to
domestic violence
• Obtain justice from the
criminal court and receive an order from
no contact against the abuser
• Submit an order request for
free protection
• Submit a petition for
legal custody of their children
• Receive shelter for the victim and his
children in a confidential shelter of
• Receive assistance and protection from
• Receive public benefits for their
citizen children
• Receive financial assistance to
• Compensation for Victims
• Obtain protection under the laws of
• Services in your language
Can a victim of domestic violence apply for asylum?

Victims of sexual violence and other forms of gender-based abuse that are not US citizens may qualify for asylum status if the injury is related to any of the five “protected reasons.”

Generally, a person who has experienced domestic violence or sexual assault in another country can apply for asylum in the US. If the government of their country of origin “refuses or finds it impossible” to protect the victims.

It has become more challenging to win an asylum case based on domestic violence under the current US government. In June 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions published a decision stating that such cases should not be approved. Since then, more judges have rejected asylum applications based on domestic violence. However, under the law, survivors of domestic violence can still be considered eligible for asylum if they meet the legal requirements, and many applications have been approved. Also, Sessions’ decision is being challenged in court. In December 2018, a federal judge issued a resolution saying that the federal government cannot use the Sessions decision in preliminary asylum reviews for “credible fear” at the border.

A person without legal documents can apply for asylum, but if the application is denied, it could result in deportation. We recommend contacting a lawyer who knows about immigration and has experience working with shelter. It is essential to speak with a lawyer who has specific expertise in this area of the law. To find a list of legal resources in your area, please go to Finding a Lawyer and choose your state or see our International Organizations-Immigration page.

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