Photo of a mother and child standing at a beach

When someone experiences violence or abuse, it can be incredibly difficult to ask for help — whether it’s from a family member, law enforcement or a social service provider.

For a person who immigrated to the United States and lacks U.S. citizenship or a legal immigration status, it’s even more daunting. Immigrant survivors of abuse often fear arrest, deportation or loss of their family from reporting their harm and getting help.

To provide support during these distressing situations, each year, legal representatives from Latinos Progresando provide free, full-service legal aid to hundreds of immigrants both in Chicago and across the United States.

“It’s very difficult when you decide to say ‘no more’ [to the abuse,]” said Silvia Jimenez, Latinos Progresando’s director of legal services. “When you decide to stop, it’s important to have resources to help you go through that moment and stage of your life. No one needs to worry about how they’re going to support themselves or their kids.”

A member of United Way’s Little Village Neighborhood Network, Latinos Progresando and other neighborhood service providers seek to build a community where peace exists and violence is eliminated. By caring for its most vulnerable neighbors, Latinos Progresando puts its vision for a safe community into action.

Through its VAWA Project — named for the federal Violence Against Women Act — legal representatives at Latinos Progresando help community members who’ve experienced or are experiencing violence or abuse determine if they’re eligible to apply for special legal protections.

If so, the reps may help the individuals — who are typically women and their children — file legal paperwork, file for court-ordered protection from their abuser and navigate complex immigration processes, which sometimes can take more than a decade to complete.