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.
In the meantime, to ensure the safety and security of its clients, Latinos Progresando also connects them to vital resources, like food and housing assistance. Through United Way’s Neighborhood Network, Latinos Progresando has built strong partnerships with other service providers in the Little Village area to meet residents’ varying needs. In these difficult times, this collaborative network is critical to ensuring individuals and families are supported and further trauma caused by homelessness and hunger are avoided.
But first residents must know that Latinos Progresando and others in the Neighborhood Network are here to help.
To inform Little Village residents about the resources available to them, Latinos Progresando staff hosts monthly info sessions about their services and immigration information. Recently, they teamed up with their Neighborhood Network partners to host a two-day workshop on cycles of domestic violence and ways to get help.
“Domestic violence is such a personal thing to many people. They don’t want to talk about it,” said Marcy Gonzalez, chief operating officer of Latinos Progresando. “But we want them to know there are resources here when they’re ready.”