*VAWA Confidentiality Protections for Immigrant Crime Victims (Update March 8, 2021)

VAWA confidentiality was designed to enhance protection for immigrant crime victims in several significant ways.  It allows victims to confidentially file for immigration relief under by prohibiting government agencies (DHS, the Department of State, and the Department of Justice) from releasing information about the existence of, actions taken in and/or information contained in a VAWA confidentiality protected case except under very limited circumstances that require that the person or entity receiving the information continue to treat it in a manner that continues to protect the confidentiality of the information.  Federal VAWA confidentiality laws generally prohibit immigration enforcement actions from occurring against immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and other U visa covered criminal activities at courthouses, shelters, rape crisis centers, and other statutorily prohibited locations courthouses.  Federal statutes require compliance with VAWA confidentiality statutes and DHS policies generally provide for supervisor involvement in decisions to undertake an enforcement action at  a protected location. VAWA Confidentiality also prohibits immigration enforcement officials from relying solely upon information provided by a perpetrator or alleged perpetrator or members of the perpetrators family to take any adverse action against a victim or the victim’s case.  This includes initiation of immigration enforcement actions, detention or deportation of a victim and seeking and/or relying upon information provided by a perpetrator or the perpetrator’s family member in the adjudication of any immigration case the victim may have filed.

Protections Against Disclosure of Information About a VAWA Confidentiality Protected Case: VAWA Confidentiality prevents the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of State (DOS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) from releasing information contained in a protected immigration file to the abuser or others..[IIRAIRA §384 (a)(2); 8 U.S.C. §1367(a)(2).  This information includes the existence of a VAWA confidentiality protected immigration filing, actions taken in the case, locational information, information about the victimization and other information contained the case file of a VAWA confidentiality protected case.  In order to receive this protection the victim must have filed one of the following types of VAWA confidentiality protected cases:

  • VAWA self-petition
  • Battered Spouse Waiver
  • VAWA cancellation of removal
  • VAWA suspension of deportation
  • T visa
  • U visa
  • VAWA Cuban adjustment applicants
  • VAWA Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act
  • VAWA Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act Protections
  • Work Authorization Applications Filed by Abused Spouses of A, E (3), G and H Visa Holders under INA Section 106

Prohibitions Against Reliance on Perpetrator Provided Information: The Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the Department of State (DOS) fare prohibited from using information provided by perpetrator or family member to make take any action or make any adverse immigration determination against the crime victim. IIRAIRA §384 (a)(1); 8 U.S.C. §1367(a)(1).   This protection extends to those who do not qualify to file, as well as those who have not yet filed cases for immigration relief as long as they are victims of the enumerated crimes, namely VAWA physical abuse or extreme cruelty, a severe form of trafficking in persons under the T-visa, or any of the U-visa qualifying crimes. IIRAIRA §384 (a)(1); 8 U.S.C. §1367(a)(1).

Immigration Enforcement Location Prohibitions: VAWA Confidentiality prohibits enforcement actions at shelters, rape crisis centers, victim services programs, community based organizations, courthouses in victim related cases, supervised visitation center or family justice centers. INA § 239(e); 8 U.S.C. §1229(e)  If DHS undertakes any part of an enforcement action at a protected location, it must disclose this fact in the Notice to Appear and to the immigration court, and must certify that such action did not violate VAWA confidentiality provisions. INA § 239(e); 8 U.S.C. §1229(e).   If the action is not certified, DHS officers face violation penalties.  IIRAIRA §384 (a)(2); 8 U.S.C. §1367(c).

Penalties for Violation:  Any DHS, DOS or DOJ official who: “willingly uses, or permits information to be disclosed in violation of this section…shall be subject to appropriate disciplinary action and subject to a civil money penalty of not more than $5,000 for each such violation.”
(8 U.S.C. § 1367(c)).

Technical Assistance and Training on VAWA Confidentiality

If you encounter a violation of VAWA confidentiality in your work with an immigrant survivor, you are working with a victim on a family law case in which you are concerned about family court discovery or courthouse enforcement, or you are seeking more information about VAWA confidentiality. NIWAP also offers training for advocates, attorneys, judges and court staff on VAWA Confidentiality.   Please contact NIWAP for technical assistance or training requests at 202-274-4457 or info@niwap.org

Training Materials

Bench Cards

VAWA Confidentiality Statutes, Regulations, and Policies

Training Materials

Statute, Legislative History, Regulations, Policies, and DHS Publications

VAWA Confidentiality and Courthouse Enforcement Policies

VAWA Confidentiality and State Court Discovery

Webinars
VAWA Confidentiality and Immigration Protective Order Cases
VAWA Confidentiality Briefs and Motions 
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