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Immigrant domestic violence survivor detained while seeking legal assistance

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that an undocumented woman was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at a courthouse in El Paso while she was seeking a protective order against a boyfriend she accused of domestic violence. This action, like the Executive Order that supports it, undermines public safety, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and the tireless efforts of organizations like Bread for the City to make our country safe for all people.

While the facts of the case are alarming enough, what is even more troubling is that the ICE agents are believed to have received the tip on her hearing from the women’s abuser. Abusers often use a victim’s undocumented status, and the threat of deportation, as a way to control them and force them to endure additional violence. The actions of the ICE agents reinforced the power dynamic between abuser and victim, and may deter future victims of intimate partner violence from coming forward and seeking safety.

This action is in direct violation of VAWA which provides important protections to undocumented survivors so that they may seek safety and escape their perpetrators. VAWA includes provisions “to protect the confidentiality of immigrant victims and prevent ICE from engaging in enforcement actions in sensitive locations”, as they did at the courthouse in El Paso.

At Bread for the City, we recognize that for those seeking to escape an abuser, legal recourse can often be the only way out. Too often, though, legal assistance is unavailable to those who need it the most. Through our Domestic Violence Community Legal Services Project our attorneys serve very low-income DC residents, 99% of whom are women, who have very few other options for addressing dangerous situations.

We believe that all survivors, regardless of immigration status, are entitled to the protections provided by the law. We are more committed than ever to standing with survivors and advocating for their safety, respect, and dignity. Please join us by supporting this important work.

Bread for the City’s Domestic Violence Community Legal Services Project is funded in part by the DC Bar Foundation.

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