Abuse in Immigrant Communities

Immigrant and non-immigrant communities experience domestic violence at similar rates, but individuals without citizenship status or other forms of documentation may face heightened risks as a result of factors like language, social isolation, lack of information or financial resources, cultural beliefs, or fear of deportation.

Immigrant survivors often choose not to report incidents of abuse out of fear of immigration consequences; immigration status may interfere with their ability to access support services as well.

Whether your concern is for yourself or someone else in your family or community, there are any number of reasons why you may be afraid to report your abuse or leave an abusive situation.

Resources from Futures Without Violence and Casa de Esperanza offer helpful information outlining tactics used by abusive partners to target immigrant victims.


Abusive partners may attempt to prevent you from learning English or from communicating or interacting with others, especially anyone with a shared cultural background.


Destroying legal documents or papers like passports, resident cards, health insurance, or driver’s licenses can be devastating to immigrant survivors and thus carries significant leverage for an abusive partner.


Threatening deportation or withdrawal of petitions for legal status is a common abuse tactic capitalizing on fears surrounding immigration enforcement. This may be directed at you or at your family members or loved ones.

Manipulation regarding citizenship or residency

Abusive partners may escalate situations beyond threats by following through on withdrawing, delaying filing, or not filing papers for residency, or lying by telling you that you’ll lose their citizenship or residency for reporting violence.

Financial abuse

Abusive partners may try to get you fired from your job or falsely report that you’re undocumented in order to isolate you financially and socially.

Leveraging children

Threats to hurt children or take them away may be used against immigrant survivors unfamiliar with the US legal system or afraid to contact law enforcement.

Domestic violence is against the law regardless of your immigration status, but a specialized immigration attorney should always be your first point of contact with regard to immigration questions—especially if you have concerns about previous contact with the criminal legal system.

WomensLaw.org provides referrals for immigration attorneys and extensive information on the subject of legal options for immigrant survivors — always consult with a lawyer before proceeding with any course of action that could impact your immigration status.

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