U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issues reminder that services need to be available to all survivors, regardless of immigration status
Immigrant survivors face numerous barriers in accessing services for themselves and their children. These barriers are often magnified if the survivor does not possess permanent legal status in the United States. Batterers use a variety of tactics to isolate and intimidate an immigrant survivor, including threatening to have her deported if she attempts to reach out for help. These tactics are often reinforced by the anti-immigrant sentiment that is present in the media and throughout our society. In recent months, the increase in this anti-immigrant public discourse has made an immigrant survivor?s path to safety even more daunting.
In an effort to ensure that all individuals retain the right to access services, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently redistributed information clarifying which services must be open to all individuals. These documents include HHS?s Domestic Violence Fact Sheet, which addresses the protections that are in place for immigrant survivors. A summary of HHS? clarification follows below:
Are battered immigrants eligible for battered women's shelter services funded by HHS?
Yes. Battered women's shelters receive funding from a variety of Federal sources, including Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) funding from the Office for Community Services in the Administration for Children and Families. These funds are administered through a designated state agency. There are no immigration restrictions included in FVPSA, and HHS has not designated FVPSA monies as a federal public benefit program that requires verification of immigration status. Other important points to remember about FVPSA funding include:
- FVPSA-funded programs may not discriminate based on national origin. 42 U.S.C. 10406.
- Formula grant-funded activities must address ethnic, cultural and language-diversity issues. 42 U.S.C. 10402(a)(2)(C).
- States must document procedures that they have developed and implemented to assure the confidentiality of records pertaining to any individual provided FVPSA-funded services. 42 U.S.C. 10402(a)(2)(E). Most, if not all, states have statutes or policies protecting the confidentiality of information provided by a victim of domestic violence to a domestic violence counselor or advocate.
Complete information and additional materials can be found on their website: hhs.gov.
In addition, nonprofit charitable organizations, including sexual and domestic violence organizations, have no obligation to inquire about the immigration status of persons who seek their services unless doing so will either determine whether the person may qualify for an immigration remedy, or will determine if additional referrals are needed. KCSDV recommends that if a conversation about status is required, the conversation should be handled carefully. Begin the conversation by asking ?do you have any immigration concerns,? rather than asking ?what is your status?
The republication of the HHS Domestic Violence Fact Sheet does not change existing law, but it does clarify that services protecting life or safety must be inclusive to everyone a reminder about the importance of providing safe, confidential services to all survivors and their children.
For more information: