Projects, Units & Initiatives

Domestic Violence Immigration Project

The Domestic Violence Immigration Project (DV Immigration Project) was established in 2003 as an initiative of the City-Wide Domestic Violence Family Law Unit to holistically address the barriers faced by non-citizen survivors as they navigate a path towards safety and stability. The Project works collaboratively within the Family Law Unit and with other LAS practice groups to address family law, housing, benefits, and other legal needs, and provides external referrals to community-based organizations for counseling and support.

The DV Immigration Project represents survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking and other forms of gender-based violence and their families throughout New York City in removal proceedings and obtaining legal status though Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitions, battered spouse waivers, U and T visas, asylum and other immigration benefits. The Project also represents the most vulnerable and marginalized survivors – those entangled in the criminal justice system’s pipeline to immigration enforcement and removal.

In addition to providing direct legal services, the DV Immigration Project is an established leader in building coalitions and promoting successful advocacy efforts to address issues impacting non-citizen survivors in New York City, including the establishment of U certification protocols with the District Attorney’s Offices, the New York Police Department, the Administration for Children’s Services, and other city and state certifying agencies.

Our Impact

Many of our DV Immigration clients are routinely threatened with deportation and their abusers often exploit the court system to maintain power and control over them. This can have devastating and severe consequences for non-citizen survivors. In one such case, we represented Ann whose ex-boyfriend was extremely physically and psychologically abusive, and his threats to have her deported kept her isolated and under his control for a long time. While she was pregnant with their child, John attacked Ann and she scratched him in self-defense. They were both arrested and issued a protection order against the other. John was later arrested again for violating Ann’s order of protection against him. John retaliated by falsely reporting to the police that Ann violated his order of protection causing her to be arrested two more times. John made his threats a reality by exploiting Ann’s undocumented status and lack of familiarity with criminal justice system. As an additional negative consequence of her arrest, Ann was placed in removal proceedings.

Our Project worked collaboratively with the Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Practice to achieve a full dismissal of the three criminal cases pending against Ann. We also obtained a U certification from the District Attorney’s Office affirming that she was a domestic violence survivor and was helpful in the prosecution against John for the crimes he committed against her. Once her U was granted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), we were able to get her removal proceedings terminated. Her six other children were also able to benefit as derivatives on her U application and she was able to reunite with them here in the United States.

As Ann went through this process, our Legal Aid Society colleagues were able to provide much needed support including counseling, housing and public benefits assistance . This was essential to help her move forward and stabilize her life for her and her children. We later represented Ann and her children in their applications for lawful permanent residence which was approved and they obtained their green cards.

*All client names and certain other personally identifying details have been altered to protect clients’ confidentiality.