Immigrant Women’s Vulnerability to Domestic Violence

13 May 2015

In 2009, Nan-Hui Jo left the U.S., following the orders of Immigrant Customs Enforcement (ICE), who denied her visa application after her abusive estranged husband refused to sponsor her green card. She took her one year old daughter, Vitz Da, whom she had with her new partner, Jesse Charlton, because she was afraid for her safety, as Jesse was also physically and emotionally abusive. In July of 2014, Nan-Hui and Vitz Da returned to the U.S., landing in Hawaii, where Nan-Hui was immediately arrested, charged with child abduction, and placed under an immigration hold. At her April 28th retrial on child abduction charges, she was found guilty, and sentenced to 175 days served and 3 years of probation.

As noted in RH Reality Check, stories like Nan-Hui Jo’s are not uncommon among immigrant women; thousands of people apply for the VAWA Cancellation of removal, which allows immigration judges to cancel deportation proceedings and grant permanent residency for people experiencing abuse. Multiple systems failed to protect and support Nan-Hui and her child, causing separation and trauma of mother and daughter. Immigrant women, particularly undocumented women, are extremely vulnerable to experiencing domestic violence. In addition to common abusive tactics such as isolating the victim, and controlling their whereabouts, abusive partners use women’s immigration status to control them. Because of language barriers, lack of knowledge of legal rights and laws, and separation from friends and family, immigrant women experiencing abuse often feel trapped (Futures Without Violence).

Luckily, there are committed individuals and organizations advocating for Nan-Hui. The Sacramento Korean community, spearheaded by Misun Yi,  supported her by fundraising for her legal defense and attending her trial. Also, young queer Korean and other Asian American women started the Stand With Nan-Hui Campaign, fiercely advocating Nan-Hui’s behalf. To stay up to date with and find out how to support Nan-Hui’s case, visit the Stand With Nan-Hui Campaign’s website or follow them on Twitter.