Immigrant and refugee survivors

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As a movement and profession, we advocate for ALL survivors of domestic and sexual violence, including undocumented and recently emigrated survivors, for two very important reasons:

1) Domestic and sexual violence is an individual choice made by the perpetrator, enabled by oppressive sociocultural values that normalize violence. Racism and xenophobia are rooted in similar underlying norms, attitudes, and beliefs. Additionally, undocumented survivors and survivors of color are more vulnerable to being discredited or coerced due to lack of access to resources and/or the fear of detention / deportation. In order to “grasp from the roots” in our work of ending domestic and sexual violence, we must also address its intersections with other forms of oppression.

2) The federal and state grants that fund a majority of community-based DV/SA advocacy programs dictate that access to life-saving services shall not be infringed or made contingent upon race, national origin, or immigration status.



The following is an excerpt from a joint letter issued by the US Departments of Health & Human Services and Justice to all grantees

Recipients of federal financial assistance |LS|…|RS| should not withhold certain services based on immigration status when the services are necessary to protect life or safety… such as emergency shelter, short-term housing assistance including transitional housing, crisis counseling, and intervention programs.

-US Departments of Health & Human Services, Justice


Frequently asked questions

The most helpful resource we have found for practical and policy questions regarding immigrant survivors is this Q&A compiled by several national DV/SA and immigrant support organizations, available in English and Spanish. (Keep in mind that DHS, in the context of immigration matters, typically means Department of Homeland Security, not Department of Human Services.)

Download Q&A in English

Download Q&A in Spanish


Hate crimes and bias incidents

The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented a significant and deeply troubling nationwide increase in reported harassment and hate violence incidents. Oregon had the highest number of reported incidents of intimidation and harassment per capita, and half of reports were from metro areas. Several of our member programs have reported deep unrest, worry, and fear described by participants. While these threats and intimidation have been directed at various marginalized groups, we want to take this opportunity to share information and resources specific to supporting immigrant survivors and communities; as guidance around other issues becomes necessary, we will do our best to provide it.

Read more about hate crimes and bias incidents


Know your rights

Advocates and others supporting immigrant survivors can click the following links to download Know Your Rights handouts, info on how to prepare for changes, and DACA (Deferred Action for Child Arrivals) information in English and Spanish.


Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

From the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project:

We have been receiving a number of questions from community members following the election of Donald Trump as President about the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. As background, DACA is a program established by President Obama in June 2012 that grants a form of temporary protection from deportation known as “deferred action” to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before the age of 16, have resided in the U.S. since June 2007 and meet other requirements. During the campaign, Donald Trump indicated that he would end the DACA program if he was elected, but he did not specify what this meant.

Read the full DACA community advisory


Legal options for undocumented survivors of abuse

VAWA self-petition

In 1994, Congress passed a law to help victims of domestic violence apply for work authorization and eventually their permanent residency, without depending on their abuser. This is called the VAWA self-petition. Women, children, and men may apply. 

In order to qualify for VAWA self-petition, a spouse has to be married or have been married to his or her abuser who is/was a US citizen or lawful permanent resident. For a child abused by his/her parent, the parent has to be either a US citizen or lawful permanent resident. 

Read more about the VAWA self-petition (English / Espanol)


SIJ juvenile visa

Immigration law provides for a way for abused, abandoned or neglected children to become lawful permanent residents if they are able to work with a state juvenile court. To qualify for this visa, you must be willing to become a dependent of the state court where you live. Your parents must have abused, abandoned or neglected you.

Read more about the SIJ juvenile visa (English / Espanol)



In 2000, Congress passed a law making a visa available to victims of certain crimes including domestic violence without having an intimate relationship with the accused. You have to have been the victim of one of the crimes listed in the law. Some of them are: rape, kidnapping, domestic violence, and assault. You have to have been helpful, or will be helpful in the future, with the police or District Attorney. You have to have suffered physical or mental abuse as a result of the crime.

Read more about the U-Visa



In order to qualify for a T-Visa, the applicant must be a victim of either sex trafficking or labor trafficking, physically present in the United States on account of the trafficking, have complied with reasonable requests for assistance in investigation or prosecution, and would suffer extreme and unusual hardship if returned to their home country.


Safety planning

Sanctuary churches and cities

Some communities are declaring their commitment to providing sanctuary for people without documentation, and we applaud these efforts though caution that it’s essential to determine what this means in practical terms. This New Yorker piece about sanctuary churches and cities (link is external) provides helpful perspective. Eugene’s city council spelled out their version at a December 2016 meeting.

The Q&A referenced earlier in this factsheet, however, reminds us that “sanctuary cities do not have the power to stop ICE from arresting and detaining people. They only have the power to offer their own services to immigrants or restrict the extent of their assistance to federal immigration agents.” Guidance from the Q&A goes on to state that “it is important to be aware of potential anti-immigrant bias, even if you think your allies and system partners are immigrant-friendly, since actions by an individual officer can result in your clients being apprehended by ICE very quickly.” Additionally, the incoming presidential administration has explicitly threatened to stop funding cities that have declared themselves sanctuaries; while this has not yet been a deterrent, it may become a stark reality to contend with in the future. 


Get involved

The Coalition convenes several ongoing workgroups you may wish to join: the Communities of Color Task Force, Aspiring White Allies Oregon, Queer Caucus, and our new Faith Leaders DV/SA Convening. If you would like more information or to join any of these groups, please email It is helpful to provide a bit of context in your message, for example, with what organization you work or how your work touches DV/SA and equity issues. 


Additional resources

Immigrant and refugee communities
Author / Source

Oregon Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence

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