An immigrant is someone who has moved to the United States from another country. The terms “documented” and “undocumented” refer to documents (papers) which show the legal status one has in the United States. Undocumented immigrants are sometimes labeled as “illegal aliens”– this is generally considered an offensive term. Domestic violence victims who are also immigrants face greater challenges when they are undocumented and controlled by an abusive spouse.
Regardless of immigration status, you have a right to safety.
The agency that handles immigration is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). As an immigrant victim of domestic violence, you should never call USCIS
directly. You should get an attorney who specializes in immigration and domestic violence to assist you. Your attorney can help you contact USCIS if necessary. Contact your domestic violence program to find an attorney.
You have the right to live free from violence whether you are documented or undocumented.
- Your abuser may have told you that getting help would get you in trouble. Do not let those threats stop you from seeking help. The police are required to help you.
- If you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or human trafficking, you may be able to get legal status in the United States through special visas available to victims of crime.
- Whether you have legal status in this country or not, you have the right to interpretation and translation services. For example, the NYS Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline (1-800-942-6906) can help people in up to 120 languages.
- Even if you are currently undocumented, you have the right to:
- call the police;
- use domestic violence and rape crisis services;
- apply for emergency Medicaid and victim assistance funds;
- receive treatment in emergency rooms;
- seek an order of protection; and
- apply for legal residency status.