Community-based crime victim advocacy programs that provide services to undocumented immigrant survivors of crimes can minimize risks to their program, funding, employees, and clients by adopting and following policies that take the laws on harboring undocumented immigrants into account.

This Advisory answers common questions about providing shelter and other program services to undocumented victims, describes the law and federal policy (as of the Advisory’s publication date), and proposes best practices for programs, but it is not legal advice. Immigration and criminal laws vary from region to region, and federal immigration enforcement policies are constantly changing. Programs should analyze their program-specific risks, their community’s particular needs, and the laws in their jurisdiction—including legal duties associated with an agency’s funding sources—as they design or update program policies. Consulting a local immigration attorney with criminal law experience is highly advisable.

Related Resources

May 2019 Advocate & Legal Services Findings: Immigrant Survivors Fear Reporting Violence

In May 2019, a coalition of national organizations gathered feedback from nearly six hundred advocates and attorneys from across the United States, learning that many immigrant victims of domestic and sexual violence are now too afraid to call the police or go to court to get help. The advocates report that survivors have an increased fear of deportation, retaliation by their abusers, and separation from their children.

Advisory Revised Oct 2018: How Will ‘Public Charge’ Proposed Policy Changes Impact Immigrant Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is planning to propose regulations that discard longstanding policy about the meaning and application of the “public charge” provisions of immigration law. Proposed policies will have a significant detrimental impact on survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault by deterring immigrant families, including those with U.S.-citizen children, from seeking help when they need it. Safety net benefits can help victims recover and escape from abuse and play a significant role in preventing future harm.

By Emily Cordo and Grace Huang

API-GBV
July 2017

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