A nonprofit is helping members of the Latino community navigate domestic violence cases by helping them apply for humanitarian visas for the victims of violent crimes.
A nonprofit is assisting members of the Latino community navigate domestic violence cases by helping them apply for humanitarian visas for the victims of violent crimes.
The nonprofit, Mil Mujeres, works to provide free legal services to those who are undocumented within the Latino community. The group’s focus is low-income people and those who are victims of domestic violence.
“The idea is for people, despite maybe not having the financial resources to hire an attorney, to be able to have an experienced attorney on their case,” said Erica Vasquez, who leads the group’s office in Sacramento.
The goal is to take victims from the beginning of a domestic violence case all the way through the process of dealing with the court system, and then assisting them with citizenship and full integration through humanitarian visas.
The U visa program, which was created in 2000, was designed to encourage people in the U.S. illegally to report crimes without fear of deportation. U visas are available for the victims of domestic violence.
Vasquez said there has been a strong need for her organization, which started in 2007 and has quickly grown from one office to 14 across the nation, including in D.C.
“I think we’ve realized that aside from the undocumented community being really vulnerable to crime, we have an idea that perhaps committing crimes against people who are undocumented will not lead to the police getting called out of fear of getting deported,” Vasquez said.
In the last five years, the group has helped more than 5,000 people go through the process, she said.
Without the organization’s assistance, Vasquez said, the process of citizenship could take a minimum of 22 years just to have an immigration application reviewed before the citizenship process begins.
“It is really difficult to impose this expectation on them to come in and quickly learn the language and quickly obtain status because there really isn’t much of a way to do that,” she added.
It’s a process she would like to see made more accessible.
“If you know someone who is undocumented and you’ve suffered a violent crime, please let us know so we can help them,” said Vasquez.
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