Monday, March 10, 2008

Protection Against Domestic Violence for Illegal Immigrants

There's a great piece today by Anabel Lee in TAP. She talks about women who are the victims of domestic abuse, but because of their status as illegal immigrants, are afraid to come forward.
Monica Bejar, 37, lived in fear for over a decade. She came to the U.S. from Mexico illegally in 1989, and shortly thereafter married a permanent resident who turned violent and started drinking heavily during their first year of marriage. Over the years, her husband would offer to set her immigration papers straight, only to rip up the forms during bouts of rage.

"He would betray me all the time so I was afraid, not so much to go back to Mexico because I have family there, but to lose my children," Bejar recalled. "I was always afraid that because he was legal here that he would take them away from me." Finally in 2004, Bejar began petitioning for lawful immigration status under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and was approved. She now owns her own business, and her three daughters feel more secure knowing their mother will always be nearby.

But in the future, women with Bejar's experience might not be able to seek the same relief under VAWA.
This is largely the result of xenophobic anti-immigration rhetoric. The discussion has moved from a more technical discussion about the vast number of illegal immigrants and what kind of services we're willing to give them to more of a vicious attempt to demonize, dehumanize, and push out these people who have been labeled on the right (and sometimes on the left) as anything from leeches to freeloaders.

What Lee is talking about here is the basic human right to live in safety. Somehow, by applying the citizenship requirement to VAWA, we're willing to say that these women should be forced to live in fear and be prisoners of their own domestic situations because they don't hold citizenship. To me, that's horrifying. I'm willing concede that some people may want to put restrictions on the benefits you can access if you're not a legal immigrant, but some basic rights like protection against domestic violence, is something we shouldn't card check. We shouldn't even think about it.

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