5 Things Every Social Worker Should Know About Immigration Law

Social workers are the first response for people who are handling an emergency, and they need to have a knowledge of immigration law. At times, some of these communities may include immigrants. A social worker may be the only person available to help an immigrant gather evidence, get help or find out where help is available.

1. The Violence Against Women Act

One of the first options for immigrants is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This act was designed to help immigrants who are victims of domestic violence. The immigration law was created to prevent United States citizens from abusing their spouses and threatening deportation if the spouse tried to get help.

Immigrants who are eligible under the act can get a green card without needing their spouse. According to the act, the spouse must have entered their marriage in good faith. They must be married to a permanent resident or a United States citizen. He or she must be a victim of abuse or mental cruelty. Social workers help the process along by being there to gather evidence, find shelter records and get medical evaluations.

2. The U-Visa

While the U-Visa is similar to VAWA, it works for more than just victims of domestic abuse. Basically, the U-Visa covers any immigrant who was a victim of crimes. The goal of this law is to encourage victims to report crimes and work with law enforcement without having to be afraid of deportation. Social workers play an important role in this process because they advocate on behalf of their client and help the victim to gather evidence.

3. Special Immigrant Juveniles

Some children can be declared a special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) if they are able to prove a few things. A juvenile court must declare the child to be dependent and eligible for long-term foster care. The child can also be put into foster care if they have been a victim of neglect, abuse or abandonment. Likewise, the judge would have to decide that it is not in the child's best interest to return to their home country.

4. Adoption Options

For immigrant children, there are two adoption options available. One option is designed for orphans, and the other is for private adoption. To be considered an orphan, the child must be a ward of the state under the age of 16. They must be orphaned because of the abandonment, death, disappearance or loss of their parents. The child can be adopted abroad or can be brought from abroad for the adoption.

If the child still has their parents, they may be eligible for private adoption. This is possible if the child is adopted before they turn 16. In addition, the child's caregiver must prove that they are the actual caregiver. Basically, it must be shown that the adoption is not just for immigration purposes. These types of adoptions have a two-year physical custody requirement, so they can be difficult. In some cases, families decide that it is easier to have the adoptive parent serve as a foster parent instead and apply for special immigrant juvenile status.

5. Consult With an Immigration Attorney

Social workers can provide better support by working with an immigration attorney. At the very least, the social worker should keep the number of an immigration attorney on file. Once a potential immigration case is found, social workers can work with an attorney to file a petition.

There are many ways that social workers can help immigrants. Many of these techniques require legal support and a knowledge of immigration law. With the right support, social workers can make a difference and help immigrants in need.

See also: Top 10 Online Social Work Degree Programs