A recent CNN story investigated the effect of the new Arizona immigration law on domestic violence victims’ willingness to contact the authorities to report abuse. Despite the fact that Orange County does not have a law like the one in Arizona, immigrant DV victims still face significant barriers in reporting their abuse.
According to our Latino Services Coordinator, many abusers manipulate victims by threatening to expose a victim’s illegal immigration status to the police if she or he reports the abuse. Abusers often hide or destroy important papers (passports, ID cards, health insurance cards, etc). Isolating victims from friends and family and not allowing them to learn English functions as another way for abusers to keep control. Abusers also use victims’ children to maintain power by threatening to take children back to their countries of origin or by claiming that the authorities will take their children away from them if they report abuse.
Immigrant victims also face a large number of logistical setbacks in attempting to leave domestic violence situations. For example, language and cultural barriers exist between many immigrants and service agencies lacking Spanish speaking advocates or interpreters. While this issue may seem insurmountable, steps are being taken to advocate for immigrant rights. Many DV agencies have employed Latino Services Coordinators and other bilingual advocates. Courts and law enforcement officials are also working to better serve the immigrant population. Despite these initial actions to better serve the Latino community here in Orange County, it is important to recognize that even though North Carolina does not have a law like the one in Arizona, victims’ legal status often impacts their ability to confront domestic violence.
What are your thoughts on the role victims’ immigration status plays in domestic violence cases?