This project provides free immigration legal services to immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and other violent crime. We are a team of committed legal staff and advocates who are dedicated to breaking down the barriers to accessing life-changing legal services that can assist survivors with obtaining secure legal status, work authorization, and most importantly, safety and a chance for a new beginning for themselves and their families. We operate throughout the state, and will meet individuals where they are, utilizing the language and location in which the survivor feels most comfortable.
The Immigrant Survivors Project began in 2010, and was formerly known as the Central Pennsylvania Immigration Project, or CPIP. Originally covering a 9-county region in south-central Pennsylvania, ISP has assisted hundreds of survivors to apply for immigration relief.
Our clients are individuals who are routinely victimized by criminal and violent elements, but who may stay silent rather than reporting these crimes because of the possibility of losing immigration status, retribution from perpetrators, or lack of knowledge and access to available resources. PIRC’s advocacy enables immigrant survivors of violence to raise their voice so that they can live without fear, contribute to the growth and prosperity of our community, and build a future of hope for themselves and their families.
ISP attorneys and advocates work with immigrant survivors to determine the appropriate, and safest, form of relief available through in-depth screenings and intakes, thorough communication, and legal advocacy. PIRC has been accredited by the Department of Justice Board of Immigration Appeals (DOJ BIA) since 2001 to provide immigration legal services, and ISP staff are either licensed attorneys or accredited representatives.
Recognizing that many victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, or other crimes are held hostage in a system of abuse and victimization, ISP assists survivors to apply for any of the forms of relief listed below.
Protection under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows an individual who has been subjected to physical, emotional, sexual, or psychological abuse at the hands of their family member (spouse, parent, or adult child) to escape the cycle of violence by petitioning for their own immigration status, and not having to rely on their abuser. ISP educates victims about their rights under VAWA and provides direct representation to access these protections.
Under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act (VTVPA), Congress created an immigration visa for individuals who have been the victim of serious crimes, including domestic violence and sexual assault. This status, known as the U Visa, encourages undocumented survivors to report these crimes to law enforcement agencies and the justice system in an effort to make communities safer and hold perpetrators accountable. Survivors who cooperate with the investigation or prosecution of the crime may be eligible to apply for the U Visa, and ultimately apply for lawful permanent residency in the United States.
The T Visa was also authorized by Congress under the VTVPA and provides protection to individuals who have been brought to the U.S. through force, fraud, or coercion. The T Visa encompasses individuals who have been subjected to commercial sex trafficking, as well as labor trafficking, and who have cooperated with law enforcement to investigate the crime and bring the traffickers to justice. Eligible survivors gain the ability to work in the United States and eventually apply for residency for themselves and certain family members.
Conditional permanent residents who have been subjected to battery and/or extreme cruelty at the hands of their U.S. citizen spouse may be able to apply for a waiver of the joint filing requirement to remove the conditions on their green card. Survivors must show that they married in good faith but that due to the abuse, their spouse is unwilling, or it is unsafe, to file jointly. If the waiver request is approved, a survivor will receive full permanent residency without any reliance on their abusive spouse.
The Immigrant Survivors Advocate Network is an alliance of domestic and sexual violence victim service agencies from across Pennsylvania coordinated by the Immigrant Survivors Project of the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center.
The network’s mission is to increase the safety and autonomy of immigrant survivors and their families by ensuring that culturally and linguistically appropriate victim services, as well as high-quality immigration legal assistance, are available and accessible throughout the Commonwealth.
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