There are approximately 5.2 million undocumented women living in and contributing to the United States, many of whom may qualify for immigration relief now or in the near future. The Migration Policy Institute predicts that women may be more likely to be eligible for DAPA, and many women who are crime victims or survivors of abuse and gender-based violence may already qualify for immigration benefits. However, many immigrant women continue to face significant barriers to accessing vital information and legal services related their immigration options.
Today, We Belong Together and the Immigration Advocates
Network (IAN), in partnership with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Pro Bono Net, and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, will launch Step Forward (www.womenstepforward.org), a new mobile accessible website for immigrant women and their families that provides tools, trusted resources, and the latest information needed to understand their immigration options and rights.
The story of Adriana Cazorla, a domestic worker living in Washington state, is a powerful example of
how access to legal status can make all the difference in helping immigrant women escape constant fear and control at the hands of their abusers:
“Before, I didn’t think that I had any rights because I was undocumented. For twelve years my ex-
husband abused me. He told me that if I called the police for help he would report me to immigration. Every day that I left to go to work I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to come home to my children. I didn’t know there were programs that could help women like me until I finally met a social worker who told me about VAWA. My children and I are safe now, but we will always be scarred by those twelve years of abuse and fear of deportation.”
At a time of increased vitriol against immigrants and confusion about the status of new immigration programs like DAPA, it’s vital that immigrant communities have ready access to plain language legal information and referrals to quality legal assistance. Step Forward‘s unique approach to both legal empowerment and mobilizing immigrant women represents a critical step in the fight against abuse, fraud and misinformation.
Step Forward allows immigrant women to take the first step towards understanding their immigration options and rights, including:
- An online self-screening tool to help undocumented women assess whether they might qualify for various forms of immigration relief;
- Trusted referrals to nonprofit legal service providers so individuals can access help and avoid fraud or misinformation;
- Latest news and updates on Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA);
- Information on what to do in case of immigration raids or other encounters with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE);
- Know your rights information for immigrant workers; and
- Resources for crime victims and survivors of abuse.
Please take a moment today to amplify this work, and the voices of immigrant women, by sharing this resource widely.
Matthew Burnett is director of the Immigration Advocates Network, a collaborative effort of leading immigrants’ rights organizations and Pro Bono Net, designed to increase access to justice for low-income immigrants and strengthen the capacity of organizations serving them.