The Role of Victim, Legal, and Consular Services
Victim, Legal and Consular Services are central to:
- effective service coordination for immigrant victims
- training for key elements of a coordinated community response
- guiding public awareness efforts and messages
Typically, victim service agencies are crisis services, shelters and other advocacy programs. Legal services include legal aid programs serving low-income clientele, and private attorneys offering discount and pro-bono legal services, which include both immigration services provided by an experienced immigration attorney, as well as other legal services. Consular services include consulates of immigrants’ country of origin, serving their citizens residing in the United States. In this toolkit, we are describing the services of the Mexican Consulate, but these services can be adapted by other consulates.
The Role of Victim Services
Providing crisis services, including:
- safety planning for victims and children
- crisis intervention
- shelter and transitional housing
- court escorts
Providing advocacy, including:
- acting as a point of contact between legal services and clients
- help with orders of protection
- screening for eligibility for VAWA self-petition and other services
- referral to all sectors of the coordinated response system of providers
- case management
- gathering documentation for VAWA self-petitions and other immigration relief
The Role of Legal Services
- Intake and screening of victims, adults, and children, for eligibility for immigration relief
- Representing victims in immigration court and with U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- Building the immigration petitions for clients, including document gathering
- Offering other legal support, including advice and representation for issues involving divorce, custody, housing, and public benefits
- Work authorization
- Referall to all sectors of the coordinated response system of provider
The Role of Consular Services
Foreign Consulates potentially have an important role to play in facilitating VAWA self petitions and U-Visas for eligible immigrants. The Mexican Consulate plays a unique role in the VAWA protocol for our border communities due to the geographical proximity of the home country for Mexican immigrants, the large number of Mexican immigrants living in border communities, and not least because of the expanded presence and authority of the Border Patrol in apprehending immigrants who may be eligible for or in the process of VAWA self petition or a U-Visa. The Mexican Consulate has expressed their interest in entering into formal agreements with key organizations participating in the protocol as part of their mandate to provide services and assist Mexican citizens.
In Southern Arizona, the role of the Network of Mexican Consulates is to represent the Mexican government in carrying out activities for the purpose of guaranteeing gender equality and protection of Mexican citizens. The Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores (Office of Foreign Relations) through the Consular network in Arizona, acts to protect and support Mexican citizens living outside of Mexico who are victims of violence, abuse, and trafficking.
The Network of Mexican Consulates in southern Arizona is committed to taking the following actions for the benefit of Mexican immitrant victims:
- Provide legal guidance and assistance in conjunction with lawyers, legal clinics and advocacy groups.
- Provide assistance and consular protection to victims when they are detained by law enforcement or immigration authorities (ICE, Border Patrol, police, sheriff).
- If necessary, and based on the Norms of Assistance and Protection in Mexico, give financial assistance for emergency needs.
- Offer victims of violence referrals to other agencies for legal representation needed for the following: humanitarian visas or permits (U-Visa, T-Visa, VAWA self-petition, etc); child custody or divorce assistance and/or representation.
- Request from US authorities temporary custody of a victim who is undergoing investigation proceedings, based on existing partnership arrangements.
- Take action to identify and locate victims of abuse or trafficking through visits to hospitals and detention centers. This will serve to channel victims towards the appropriate services and resources.
- Designate a representative in each consulate to maintain direct contact with the Southern Arizona Battered Immigrant Women Project as a liaison and representative in support of victims.