Legally Brief: How to Advise Immigrant Survivors – The Latest Developments

In another attempt to further alienate all immigrants,including the survivors we work with everyday, last week the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released and updated Notice to Appear memo, entitled: Updated Guidance for the Referral of Cases and Issuance of Notices to Appear (NTAs) in Cases Involving Inadmissible and Deportable Aliens. The intention of this document is clear – it expands the circumstances in which USCIS will issue Notices to Appear (NTAs), which generally serve as the first step in the removal process. This guidance implements the directive from the January 2017 Executive Order that individuals whose legal claims to remain in the United States have been lawfully rejected should be removed.

What does this mean for victims of domestic violence and other crimes? Bluntly, this means that a Notice to Appear may be filed against someone who has unsuccessfully sought the legal relief available to them under the Violence Against Women Act – namely a VAWA self-petition, a U Visa, or a T Visa or other similar relief. VAWA Confidentiality ends once that remedy sought is denied and a Notice to Appear can subsequently be served on the attorney of record or the safe address provided. 

Make no mistake about it – this is a big policy change. It had been a long standing practice that USCIS did not typically issue NTAs in connection with survivor-based filings like VAWA self-petitions, U and T Visa applications.

So how do we advise our immigrant survivors? ICADV is working to provide you with the best and safest advice in these troubled times. We will continue to work with our allies to discuss the implications of this memo; it will undoubtedly harm victims of crime, as the fear of the consequences of denial may prevent them from coming forward. 

If you do have questions or would like to seek technical assistance in working with immigrant survivors, please contact Legal Counsel Kerry Hyatt Bennett or Staff Attorney Magdalena Josipovic