In the last couple of years, there have been numerous efforts to chip away at safeguards that protect immigrants and asylum seekers. In this hostile environment, immigration legal services for women who are survivors of gender-based violence are particularly critical.
There are over 580,000 undocumented immigrants in the nine Bay Area counties. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that nearly half of all undocumented immigrants in California are women. An immigrant woman or girl who survives gender-based violence faces barriers to justice as her inability to legally work, lack of family support, cultural pressures, and limited English proficiency make obtaining help difficult. Additionally, it is not uncommon for abusers to use threats of deportation and separation from children to silence victims and coerce her to stay.
ZFF is proud to support the Tahirih Justice Center (Tahirih). Partners like Tahirih ensure that our laws and policies protect the rights of immigrant survivors of violence, providing communities with information and tools needed to ensure safety and access to legal protection. Tahirih works specifically with immigrant women and girls fleeing gender-based violence who are navigating the complex U.S. legal systems. Tahirih’s model for protection is holistic and effective combining free legal services and social services cases management with bridge-building policy advocacy, and research-based training and education. In the Bay Area, Tahirih is a fairly new organization, having only opened its office in San Bruno in 2016. In this short time, Tahirih has made a significant impact in the Bay Area protecting individuals and their family members through free legal services and assistance to vital social services. In 2017, more than 237 individuals and family members benefited from Tahirih’s work. Additionally, 23 clients and their family members were assisted in receiving needed social services. Nationally, since its founding, Tahirih has helped over 22,000 women and children gain access to protections that allow them to break free from abuse, end the cycle of violence for their families, challenge their communities, and transform their cultures.
Recently, Attorney General Sessions made a decision on Matter of A-B- and ordered immigration judges to stop granting asylum to most victims of domestic abuse and gang violence. In his remarks, Sessions states, “the mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim.” This assessment erodes protections for domestic violence survivors and others who look to the United States for safety and will prevent tens of thousands of people, especially women, from seeking asylum in America. This setback underscores the important work of Tahirih and all of ZFF’s Immigrants and Refugees partners.
To learn more about Tahirih’s work and the San Francisco office, visit the website.