Victims of domestic violence face daunting challenges to leaving their abuser, including personal, religious, and financial obstacles, as well as threats to their physical safety. Immigrant victims face an additional hurdle, as abusers often use immigrant status as a means to continue to exercise control over the victim. For example, an abuser may threaten to “out” an immigrant victim to the authorities for deportation if the victim seeks help from the police or the courts.
These concerns have heightened in light of recent federal policies aimed at increased deportation of a broad category of immigrants. In February 2017, the worst fears of victims and advocates were realized at a domestic violence hearing in El Paso, Texas, where an undocumented women seeking a protective order against her abusive boyfriend was arrested at the courthouse by ICE. Some immigrant victims have become afraid to seek help from anyone, including attorneys or health care providers, out of fear of reporting and deportation. Even those immigrant victims who have legal status have become afraid of seeking help from our legal system due the recent targeting of immigrants and increasingly aggressive rhetoric.
The California Values Act (SB 54) was introduced in December 7, 2016, by Senate President Pro Tempore de Leon, attempts to address those fears and allow victims of domestic violence to obtain the help they need without fear of deportation. The stated goal of the proposal is to allow California school, hospitals, and courthouses to remain safe and accessible to all California residents, regardless of immigration status. To achieve this goal, the Act limits law enforcement’s role in the investigation, detention, reporting, or arrest of any person for immigration enforcement purposes without a judicial warrant.
At ADZ Law LLP, we pride ourselves on keeping up-to-date on the most recent case law and legislation affecting victims of domestic violence and intimate partner violence. In early May 2017, Laura E. Vocke, Esq., an associate attorney with this firm, travelled to Sacramento with the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence to lobby in favor of the Act. As of the date of posting this blog, the Act passed the Senate Floor and is currently in the Assembly.
If you or someone you know is being abused and needs legal help, regardless of immigration status, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.