Domestic Violence and Immigrant Women

Authored By: Texas RioGrande Legal Aid - Austin,, Texas Council on Family Violence, and the Texas Civil Rights Project VAWA program
Information Texas Civil Rights Project VAWA program American Gateways' PRISA program Power and Control Wheel for Immigrant Women


Domestic Violence and Immigrant Women

Domestic abuse is not limited to any single culture, social class, or lifestyle.  Accordingly, the needs of each domestic abuse victim may change based on the other circumstances of their lives. In the United States, there are special steps that undocumented immigrant women can take to protect themselves and their family. These special provisions are part of a law called the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This law recognizes that special circumstances arise when a domestic violence victim is also undocumented.

Many domestic violence partners often rely on control to create a power imbalance that prevents their victim from leaving the relationship. In many cases this may mean control over finances, social activities and even minor decisions throughout daily life. In addition to these types of control, immigrant women may also feel like their abuser has control over their legal status in this country as well.

This can happen when their immigration sponsor becomes abusive and threatens to withdraw support of her immigration petition. This may also happen when the abuser is not an actual immigration sponsor, but uses his familiarity in this country and the landuage to make her believe that she has less rights than the law actually allows. Beyond this, many immigrant women do not report violence to the police to keep from revealing their presence and status to law enforcement and facing deportation. For these and many other reasons, immigrant women may be reluctant to come forth and ask for assistance. Click here for a bilingual publication by the Texas Council on Family Violence that explains in the unqiue effects of domestic violence on immigrant women.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

The Violence Against Women Act provides ways for undocumented immigrant women who are victims of domestic violence to obtain legal status in the U.S. VAWA is the acronym for the Violence Against Women Act, which was passed by Congress in 1994.  Among other things, VAWA created special provisions in United States immigration law to protect victims of abuse who are not citizens of the United States.  In cases of domestic violence, US immigration law allows certain victims of abuse who are not citizens to obtain lawful status without having to rely on their abuser to petition.

Click here for information from Women' about VAWA & obtaining lawful immigration status WITHOUT relying on an abuser.  

For more help contact:

  • American Gateways at (512) 478-0546. American Gateways' PRISA program assists immigrant survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, and other crimes in applying for immigration benefits under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA).

    PRISA teaches survivors of abuse to advocate for themselves and assists with self-petitioning for legal permanent residency. Through VAWA this group of women are eligible for a U-Visa or a T-Visa under VTVPA. Obtaining immigration benefits through PRISA provides battered immigrants with the tools necessary to leave an abusive situation, recover from crisis, and become their own advocates. Click here for more information on this program.



  • The Texas Civil Rights Project : VAWA Immigrant Survivors of Domestic Violence Program: From their page: Who we serve: Our project focuses on immigrant survivors of domestic violence living in Texas’ rural areas. If we accept your case, we will provide free services, submit proper forms to Immigration, apply for your work authorization document, and submit your legal permanent resident application. We can do the same for your undocumented children if they are unmarried and under 21. Click here for more information on this program.

Other organizations that may also be able to help:

Texas Civil Rights Project VAWA program

American Gateways' PRISA program:

Power and Control Wheel for Immigrant Women

Last Review and Update: Dec 05, 2013