Defending Immigrant Survivors of Domestic Violence

Last month, Blue Shield of California Foundation began supporting the work of three organizations to defend immigrant survivors of domestic violence in California. Women fleeing domestic violence in their home countries have been able to seek asylum in the United States, where they and their children could be protected from deadly violence. This protection ended abruptly in June 2018 when then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed this policy and directed immigration officials to deny domestic violence asylum claims.

When women flee their home countries, it is often their last and sometimes only resort to escape extreme violence. According to a report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 69% of Central American women asylum seekers sought safety in their home country before fleeing. If forced to return to their home countries, many women and children would face immediate danger, including torture and death.

This grantmaking is part of the Foundation’s Act Now strategy to support communities that are at high risk in the current rapidly changing social and political climate. The Foundation selected two organizations, University of California – Hastings Center for Gender & Refugee Studies ($200,000) and the Tahirih Justice Center ($200,00) to receive core support funding. Both are recognized leaders in training, research, advocacy, and litigation on behalf of immigrant women fleeing domestic violence. Both have a long track record of successful advocacy and litigation for immigrant women and a clear position as national leaders at the intersection of asylum and domestic violence. Together, these two organizations are implementing a coordinated strategy to both lift up the stories of immigrant women fleeing devastating domestic violence and defend the ability of these women and their children to seek safety in the United States.  

The third organization, Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) ($400,000), is a leading immigration law technical assistance intermediary in California that works with providers and advocates throughout the state who serve immigrant survivors and asylum seekers. Immigrant Legal Resource Center will partner with networks such as the Culturally Responsive Domestic Violence Network and the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence to train these organizations to identify and respond to the needs of domestic violence immigrant survivors who are seeking asylum or other form of remedy. ILRC will also share the stories of immigrant survivor experience and the impact of changing federal policies.

Through these grantmaking efforts, the Foundation seeks to extend protections for women who have courageously sought asylum and safety for themselves and their children and to promote dialogue and understanding around immigration and domestic violence.