Roots of Courage Fighting for Undocumented Survivors

Christen Martines | October 16, 2020


Each survivor encountered through our programs at Family Tree has a unique story and situation.

A familiar one for those working with these clients, and one not always considered, is the prevalence of domestic violence within immigrant groups and against undocumented individuals.

While every domestic violence survivor deals with unimaginable barriers, undocumented individuals are faced with even more daunting realities that can keep them in dangerous situations. Perpetrators are known to use tactics like isolation, withholding financial resources, and the broad manipulation of their partner’s undocumented status as a form of control. Refusing to file immigration papers, threatening to withdraw from immigration proceedings, or threatening the involvement of authorities are all common ways in which an abuser can use current infrastructures against their partners.

When survivors do make the courageous choice to leave their situation, they are then faced with even greater obstacles. Limited legal and direct services leave them with few options, and often no safe place for retreat. Potential language barriers can also mean that finding these already limited resources can be even more challenging. Family Tree’s Roots of Courage (ROC), stands proudly as a resource in the Metro Denver Area in cases just like these.

Ruby, a bilingual advocate at ROC, shares an experience with a client in this scenario.

“We had a client who for years her abuser would promise to help her file for her residency but he never did. When he brought her to Texas from Honduras he made sure to isolate her from everyone. He did not let her learn English or leave the house without him.”

Knowing the dangers of the client returning to her abuser, Ruby worked to find the right resources and always made sure that the client was able to understand the sometimes complicated processes of ensuring the continuance of the services keeping her safe, from legal assistance to housing options after her stay at ROC. “While staying in shelter the client received all her services in her native language, Spanish. I always made sure I was the one to communicate important things to her so she had a full understanding of it. I also sat and translated for her when she needed to utilize another service from Family Tree. I translated handouts and any information from resources she requested and needed.”

Statistics on intimate partner violence against undocumented and immigrant women.

“Abuse rates among immigrant women are as high as 49.8%, this is almost three times the national average.”

“Among abusive spouses who could have filed legal immigration papers for victims, 72.3% never file immigration papers and the 27.7% who did file had an average delay of 3.97 years.”

When you support Family Tree, you help ensure services are provided regardless of immigration status. Learn more about how you can contribute today.