Immigration has been in the headlines a lot so far in 2023 and it’s been a bumpy journey for immigrant survivors of gender-based violence. Policies have changed quickly while the needs of immigrant survivors have remained the same: access to safety, dignity, and justice as they seek a life free from violence.
Tahirih has provided free, client-centered legal and social services to over 2,300 immigrant survivors and their family members so far this year, thanks to the support of 1,072 pro bono attorneys working with Tahirih clients on their cases, as well as our network of dedicated social services and medical professionals. We’ve led 62 training and outreach events so far this year, training over 3,800 lawyers, law enforcement, social workers, doctors, and other professionals to recognize and meet the unique needs of immigrant survivors of gender-based violence.
Tahirih staff continue to find new and innovative ways to help survivors rebuild their lives:
- Tahirih Atlanta has built over 12 new partnerships with service providers across the Greater Atlanta region to expand the safety net of services available to their clients, including domestic violence shelters, therapy and counseling in multiple languages, family law services, financial assistance for immigrant families, and more trainings and clinics for pro bono attorneys. They have also formed valuable community partnerships with a variety of companies, including Panasonic Automotive North America, who purchased and assembled 40 hygiene kits for our clients at the Atlanta office.
- Tahirih Greater DC-Baltimore is building strong community partnerships to better support immigrant survivors, including a new collaboration with the HEAL Health and Asylum Collaborative, a partnership among Johns Hopkins University, Loyola University of Maryland, and other service providers in the Baltimore area to increase access to forensic physical and psychological evaluations, mental health care, and other direct services for asylum seekers. Tahirih is also leading a Legal/Law Enforcement Human Trafficking Response Working Group in Northern Virginia, gathering legal providers and law enforcement to better coordinate services and elevate the unique needs of trafficking survivors.
- Tahirih San Francisco is expanding their use of virtual legal clinics as a powerful tool for meeting client needs, enhancing access to justice, and expanding partnership collaborations. By leveraging technology, these clinics provided collaboration opportunities with partners like Arnold & Porter, Willkie Farr & Gallagher, PayPal Inc., Airbnb, and Gundersen Dettmer to expand our capacity to assist service seekers with legal guidance, information, and preparing legal filings remotely.
- Tahirih Houston continues to expand their state and local policy advocacy and community engagement work. In April, our Houston Policy & Advocacy team testified at the Texas State Legislature and participated in a coalition campaign to defeat harmful anti-immigrant legislation. Staff also led an interdisciplinary training on the rights of immigrant survivors of gender-based violence, incorporating our legal, social services, and policy teams in partnership with the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council.
On the advocacy side, we have amplified the needs of immigrant survivors of gender-based violence to push for just laws and policies that protect survivors’ rights and safety. Here are some highlights from the first half of the year:
- When the administration announced a harmful new proposed rule called the asylum ban that would prevent nearly all people seeking safety at our southern border from seeking asylum, Tahirih worked hard with a coalition of partners to oppose the rule’s implementation, including joining a coalition of thousands of advocates to submit public comments in opposition. We filed a lawsuit alongside immigrant rights organizations because the asylum ban is illegal and inhumane, and on July 25, a federal judge agreed, blocking the implementation of the policy in a significant victory for asylum seekers. The federal government has already appealed the judge’s decision and Tahirih and our partners will continue to fight in court for an end to this harmful policy.
- In May, our Chief of Programs Maricarmen Garza traveled to the border with a delegation of partners to bear witness to the end of Title 42 and the beginning of the asylum ban. The delegation produced a report after our trip sharing more details of our findings and we continue to uplift the inhumane conditions she witnessed at the border. Their findings regarding the dangers facing immigrant families forced to wait at the U.S.-Mexico border helped support our victory in legislation to overturn the asylum ban.
- Tahirih’s Forced Marriage Initiative successfully supported the passage of state laws to limit or end child marriage in five states, including Vermont and Connecticut which became the 8th and 9th states to end child marriage completely. Stay tuned as we work on our campaign to end child marriage in Washington, DC by setting the minimum marriage age at 18 – no exceptions.
- Tahirih is also expanding our state-level policy work. Our Policy team worked with the Greater DC-Baltimore regional office to support a new law in Maryland that removes the ‘marriage defense’ to sexual assault, and with the Atlanta office to begin a campaign to create an address confidentiality system for survivors in Georgia.
- Our Afghan Asylum Project continues to provide legal assistance and social services to hundreds of Afghan refugees in the U.S., in partnership with over 500 pro bono attorneys.
Through all these challenges, we are inspired to keep working for progress by our resilient clients like Anastasia, who escaped labor trafficking only to face the threat of deportation and separation from her son. With Tahirih’s help, Anastasia received her T visa, a protection for survivors of trafficking and now she is giving back to her community by working for a non-profit to help educate immigrants about their rights. As Anastasia said, “I had no idea there were laws that could protect me.” Now she works to make sure other immigrants know there are laws that will protect them.
As we look ahead to the remainder of 2023, we are proud of what we have accomplished together, and we know we can continue to create change when we work together towards our shared goal of a better world for all.