As if Arizona’s immigration law wasn’t bad enough…

…it could also prevent women and children from leaving abusive households.

Immigrant women “tend to have fewer resources, stay longer in the relationship, and sustain more severe physical and emotional consequences as a result of the abuse and the duration of the abuse than other battered women in the United States,” according to a 2006 paper by Orloff and her colleagues at Legal Momentum. “In particular, research studies have found that abusers of immigrant domestic violence victims actively use their power to control their wife’s and children’s immigration status.”

Orloff calls the new law in Arizona “chilling” for victims of domestic violence living in the country without permission. “A proportion may have had the courage to call the police before, but that will disappear,” she said. “This is essentially a field day for crime perpetrators.” The impact of Arizona’s new law, then, is to push back into the shadows victims whom Orloff and her colleagues have been trying to bring forward for decades.

Advocates fear that if victims do not feel they can call police, even as a last resort, the turning points that sometimes bring them the help and information they need to escape will no longer occur. Instead, more women will wind up dead. In Brownsville, two of the most dramatic recent homicides have involved victims of relationship violence. The first, Brenda Lee Nuñez, was about to graduate from high school. She was at the head of her class. Instead, in February of 2009 her ex-boyfriend, who her family says had been obsessed with her, came into her room one morning, stabbed her nearly 30 times and slit her throat. A year later, Veronica Ibarra was being helped by the Friendship of Women when her husband claimed he was ill and called her asking for help, according to police. Her husband strangled her to death and later called the police and turned himself in, leaving the wife of their four children dead and himself in jail, police said.

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