When issues affecting immigrants in the U.S. are discussed, not much is talked about women who are on dependent visas. Advocates point out that as the road to achieving citizenship becomes harder under the Donald Trump administration, they’ve seen a spike in domestic violence cases.
Reporting the abuses suffered by an unnamed Indian woman, who was on a H-4 visa, the Houston Chronicle writes that “Abusers use lack of citizenship as a control tactic by threatening deportation, failing to file paperwork for visa applications and otherwise raising victims’ fear of reporting abuse to law enforcement.”
Victims are more fearful, adds the report, given the “obstacles placed in the path of achieving legal status under the administration’s ‘zero-tolerance policy,’ narrowing down the already limited options for survivors of domestic violence.”
“After the elections, the volume of individuals calling with fear and stories of deep concern increased in our office,” Anne Chandler, executive director of the Houston chapter of the nonprofit Tahirih Justice Center, told the publication.
In the first nine and a half months of 2018, reports of immigration threats to Daya, a nonprofit that supports Indian American and South Asian survivors of domestic violence, more than doubled from all of 2017, it said.
“Our call volume stayed the same (under Trump), but the content of the calls was quite different,” Rachna Khare, executive director of Daya, told the Houston Chronicle. “You really felt that culture of fear within our immigrant survivors, whether they are here on valid visas or undocumented.”
Because of increased vulnerabilities, immigrant women are “twice as likely to experience domestic violence” as the general population, according to Tahirih.
A survey conducted by Daya highlighted that of abused immigrant women, 27 percent said they hadn’t reported their abuse because they feared being deported.
“Their spouses will tell them, ‘Go ahead and call the police, I’m going to have you deported,’” Khare shared with the publication. “And they don’t know whether that’s true or not, and they can’t take the risk because if their spouse gets arrested and their visa depends on (the spouse’s) visa, where does that leave their kids? Where does that leave (the victim)?”
And even if the victim comes forward, Khare said, the number of options organizations like theirs had earlier to help the victims, are drying out.
“Before we would say to clients, ‘Here are pathways for you to be able to stay in this country legally with your children, and you can start working,’” Khare told the Houston Chronicle. “And now those pathways are just getting a lot harder… Every day the messaging is very unclear, and changes happen very quickly through executive orders. We’re losing some of the protections that kept people safe.”
Foreign victims of domestic violence are no longer eligible for asylum in the U.S., ruled Attorney General Jeff Sessions June 11, in a decision severely limiting the scope of eligibility for asylum seekers.
The administration has also proposed a new regulation that would make it very difficult for immigrants to obtain a Green Card if they’ve used public benefits like food stamps or Medicaid in the past.
(See earlier story in India-West here.)