News/US: Helping to Stop Nightmare of Abuse

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Subject: News/US: Helping to Stop Nightmare of Abuse
From: A. Jordan (annj@hrlawgroup.org)
Date: Wed Jul 21 1999 - 10:55:54 EDT


>Edited/Distributed by HURINet - The Human Rights Information Network
>---------------------------------------------------------------------
>## author : nnirr@igc.org
>## date : 24.03.99
>---------------------------------------------------------------------
>Source unknown.
>
>Helping to Stop
>Nightmare of Abuse
>By MARTIN MBUGUA
>Daily News Staff Writer
>
>Thousands of illegal immigrant women in Queens are enduring
>severe physical and mental abuse in silence because they
>fear deportation or can't afford for legal representation,
>according to attorneys who specialize in the field.
>
>It is their plight that the Immigrant Initiatives program at
>the City University School of Law was created to address.
>
>The program, based at 65-21 Main St. in Flushing, trains
>CUNY Law alumni, law students and paralegals in new legal
>provisions for abused immigrant women and provides
>supervised pro bono legal services to them.
>
>"We suspect that [domestic violence] is certainly less
>reported in immigrant communities, because people are
>fearful of coming forward," said program director Alizabeth
>Newman.
>
>In the program's two years in existence, relatively few
>women have been able to overcome their fears to seek legal
>assistance. But those who have say it has been a ray of
>light guiding them from the dungeon of abuse.
>
>"I wasn't thinking clearly, because I was in shock," said a
>woman identified only as Lucia, who endured four years of
>physical and psychological abuse from her husband before she
>was referred to Immigrant Initiatives. "Whenever he opened
>the door, I would be startled."
>
>"I was scared because of my 3-year-old son, who is a U.S
>citizen, because I would have to leave him if I was
>deported," Lucia told the Daily News. "When you are in that
>situation, you go blind, and you don't see all the things
>you have, and you get scared."
>
>The petite woman, who is in her 40s, explained that her
>husband, a legal permanent resident who had filed a petition
>for her to obtain legal status, regularly beat her and then
>threatened to call immigration authorities if she reported
>the abuse.
>
>Lucia, who is an undocumented alien, has become more
>confident during the last six months by learning about her
>legal options and the steps she can take to file a petition
>for legal status with the Immigration and Naturalization
>Service.
>
>"In the long run, the law has gotten better as far as the
>protections are concerned," Newman said. "Now, if a woman is
>filing for [legal] status under the special Violence Against
>Women Act, she will be entitled to shelter, work
>authorization and to self-petition for legal status."
>
>In addition to assisting battered women, Immigrant
>Initiatives, which is funded by a grant from the Emma
>Lazarus Fund of the Open Society Institute, works with the
>Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the
>CUNY Citizenship Project to assist in naturalization cases.
>
>Other projects include assisting elderly and disabled
>immigrants with Social Security benefits, political asylum
>cases, community education and interdisciplinary teaching.
>
>"The students find it a wonderful experience, both
>personally and educationally," Newman said. "Many of the
>students are interested in working with immigrant
>communities when they graduate, and for other students, who
>may never practice immigration law, it opens their eyes to
>the needs of other communities they may not have been aware
>of."
>
>Yanitza Brignoni, a second-year law student, said her
>experience as a volunteer with Immigrant Initiatives has
>reinforced her desire to become an immigration lawyer.
>
>"I love doing this work," she said. "Now, I am more willing
>and excited about it, because there are so many people out
>there who need help."
>
>Meanwhile, Lucia, who has moved out of her husband's
>apartment, has joined the outreach effort to inform
>immigrant women who are in the same predicament about their
>options.
>
>"I know many people in the same situation, but they are
>scared," she said. "When I talk to people on the streets and
>in the laundermat, I ask them to leave the man and get
>help."
>
>Immigrant Initiatives can be reached at (718) 340-4300.
>
>Original Publication Date: 03/18/1999
>
>


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