Changing Immigration Policies & their Impact on Survivors of Abuse

DayaHOUSTON:  On a Thursday evening, September 13, 2018 Daya held an event focusing on immigration policies and domestic violence at India House. Beyond the Headlines, Examining Today’s Immigration Landscape brought to attention that domestic violence survivors from immigrant communities face intersectional trauma from their abuser and the immigration system.

Daya’s executive director, Rachna Khare welcomed the attendees by providing the background on the impact domestic violence has on the individual and society. She reiterated that domestic violence is not a private matter but a public health issue. Irfana Hussain, Director of Outreach at Daya provided a quick introduction to immigration abuse, showing how abusers manipulate immigration policies to keep their victims from seeking help. Jessica Howton, a managing attorney from Tahirih Justice Center, gave an informative understanding of the limitations and remedies available for survivors of domestic violence such as the Violence Against Women Act.

The most powerful segment of the evening was the survivor story. A former Daya client told her story of abuse and courage to fight back and reclaim her life for herself and her children. The client knew she could not go back to her home country after her husband went back as she feared for her life. He had threatened to kill her. She worked with Daya and Tahirih Justice Center to seek asylum. The client emphasized the lengthy process for seeking asylum and later in obtaining permanent residency for herself and her children. Due to recent travel bans and changes in immigration policies, she could not travel outside of the United States to visit her sick mother because she was afraid she would not be able to return. Her incredible, emotional story brought the audience to tears and a standing ovation for her courage to speak out.

The event concluded on a positive note by highlighting the work different organizations and coalitions are doing to address the systemic barriers and driving the community to take action. The take action panel of speakers provided specific ways individuals can make positive change through civic and political engagement. Nabila Mansoor, former Executive Director of Emgage, spoke passionately about the upcoming 2020 Census and the importance of it for Asian Americans and all immigrants to participate. Accurate counting will benefit minority communities and help them wield political power. Debbie Chen, an immigrant attorney and activist with OCA Greater Houston, provided statistics to show that Asian Americans tend to have low political and civic engagement despite the growing population. She encouraged all to vote, help others to register to vote, and change the culture. Andrea Guttin, Legal Director of Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, focused on collaboration and how individuals can support immigrants by volunteering with and giving to organizations working for social change.

The event also featured a voter registration table organized by Hindu American Foundation. Attendees left with a program that featured resources on how to take action to help support their communities and survivors of abuse.

For details contact: Rachna Khare, Executive Director  (713) 842-7222 /