Getting Help While Being Undocumented

Dating and domestic violence occurs in immigrant communities at similar rates as non-immigrant communities. However, immigrant communities are often at greater risks -- due to language barriers, social isolation, lack of information, lack of financial resources, cultural beliefs, not knowing our rights and sometimes the fear of deportation. Abuse often goes unreported, and victims do not receive the services they need. Sometimes immigration status gets in the way of looking for help and support, because sometimes we just don’t know what’s going to happen when we look.

Because of the complex barriers and challenges that immigrant teens and 20-somethings face, it often makes reporting dating abuse that much more difficult. However it’s very important to make sure that you’re able to take steps to keep safe. Below are some tips to help:

Know Your Rights

International human rights apply to all human beings, regardless of immigration status. Everyone –- citizen or immigrant, documented or undocumented –- enjoys basic human rights such as the right to be safe and protected by the law.1

This means that you have the right to seek help from the police, from service providers in your community and from adults at your school without fear, regardless of your documentation status. Often, immigrant teens and 20-somethings fear that if they seek help from the police or others in school, they may be deported, get someone in trouble or even worse, get themselves in trouble with the law.2

Sometimes, your parent’s immigration status may also get in the way of looking for help, for fear that your parents may be exposed or “found out.” For example, if you’re in a dating violence situation and your partner knows that your parents are undocumented, they may threaten you by telling you that they will call the police and turn your parents in. Or if their parents are undocumented, they may tell you that you can't get help because it'll put your partner's family at risk. Remember, you have the right to seek help regardless of your documentation status. If you are fearful or unsure about what to do, contact a peer advocate as your first step.

Seek Support From People You Trust

As immigrants, we are more likely to turn to family members and friends first, rather than to others outside of our family. We may do this for many reasons -– we trust our friends and family, we may not know where else to go for help, we may fear the police and other resources that we’re not familiar with. Always reach out to those you know and trust -- use your best judgment. If you have a teacher, school social worker, youth pastor or school officer that you trust, be sure to reach out to them too. They may know of great resources to support you in your situation.

Become Informed

Often, we just don’t know where to get help and support. Start by learning the facts about dating abuse by exploring this website. Then, look for local resources that you trust, like people at your school, church and community. Look for organizations that work with young people, with immigrant communities and/or with victims of abuse. Know that knowledge is power, and the more you know, the better you’ll be able to help yourself and others.


  1. Advocates for Human Rights. The Rights of Migrants in the United States Fact Sheet. http://www.energyofanation.org/uploads/migrant_rights_fact_sheet.pdf.
  2. Rodriguez, R., La Voz Juvenil de Caminar Latino, Nunan, J., & Perilla, J.L. (2013). Participatory Action Research with Latin@ Youth: Exploring Immigration and Domestic Violence (Research Report No. 2013.2). Retrieved from National Latin@ Network website: http://www.nationallatinonetwork.org/research/nln-research.