The experiences and challenges of Latin@ immigrant survivors of violence are often compounded by numerous barriers that impede their access to mainstream services and systems of support and undermine access to safety. Congress acknowledged the vulnerability of undocumented immigrants to abuse and how immigration status can be used as a tool of abuse to keep a victim in the shadows and deny her access to safety and self-sufficiency. As a result, special immigration remedies were created through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994 and have been strengthened in each subsequent reauthorization of VAWA.
Understanding the cultural context alone is sometimes not enough to restore justice and provide safety for Latin@ survivors and their families. Important elements such as immigration laws, language barriers, increasing entanglement between local law enforcement and federal immigration enforcement efforts, anti-immigrant sentiments and the local and state policies impacting immigrants in the region where the violence is taking place, or where the survivor is able to flee from the violence, can have a tremendous impact on their lives. At the same time, it is important to acknowledge and honor the tremendous courage and resiliency of an immigrant survivor who is reaching out for support to address issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, or trafficking. It is critical for advocates to understand the realities of immigrant survivors, the impact of current immigration laws and practices, as well as the best approaches and resources for supporting them in seeking safety and promoting social justice for ALL survivors.