Local Groups Get Federal Grant to Back Advocacy for Immigrant Victims


Inés Negrette, executive director of CasaLuz - CASALUZ
  • CasaLuz
  • Inés Negrette, executive director of CasaLuz

Two Memphis organizations received a grant this week to support their advocacy work for Hispanic and Latinx victims of domestic violence and other crimes.

The United States Department of Justice on Violence Against Women awarded Mid-South Immigration Advocates (MIA) and CasaLuz a $600,000 grant to continue their work for three more years.

The organizations have been in partnership since 2016. Together the groups provide legal representation and victim advocacy to members of the Hispanic and Latinx who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking.

CasaLuz, the only organization in the region that provides culturally specific victim support, spearheads the program.

Inés Negrette, executive director of CasaLuz, said the organization was founded in 2015 to meet the unique needs of Hispanic victims of abuse, who she said often face barriers to accessing services.

“Through this grant, our organizations help vulnerable clients break the cycle of abuse and move forward to lives free from violence,” Negrette said.

Some of the work that the groups will continue to do under the grant include crisis intervention, assistance with reporting crimes to law enforcement, legal advocacy during criminal proceedings, counseling, support groups, and legal representation for matters such as child support, divorce, and custody.

Sally Joyner, executive director of MIA, said the group’s collaboration and work with CasaLuz is “essential for our community.” Even for people who have lived in the country their entire lives, Joyner said navigating the legal system can be difficult. But it’s even more challenging for the immigrant community. That’s why the groups work to prevent language and discrimination from serving as barriers to justice.

Joyner said undocumented victims of domestic violence with U.S. citizen spouses are often deterred from reporting incidents fearing their spouse will contact U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and ultimately, deportation.

The groups encourage victims to report violent crime to law enforcement, Joyner said, noting that the law provides avenues to citizenship for victims of crimes such as rape or aggravated assault, who cooperate with police.

“We get to give dignity and control back to our clients by telling them that they are not alone and that immigration law provides special pathways to legal status for abused spouses of U.S. citizens,” Joyner said.

Joyner said MIA works to ensure that its clients are able to remain in the country with their families without the fear of family separation and deportation.

“Many of our clients’ children are U.S. citizens,” Joyner said. “They are Memphians as much as we are, born and raised here. Our work sets these kids up for a stronger, more stable future so we will all benefit from a stronger, more stable Memphis.”

MIA and CasaLuz, along with the Refugee Empowerment Program are teaming up to present a half-day training on the impact of domestic violence on the immigrant and refugee communities in the Mid-South.

The training, When Love Hurts: Domestic Violence Through an Immigrant and Refugee Lens, will help attendees understand the cultural aspects of domestic violence, the effect it has on children, and barriers to justice.

The training is scheduled for Friday, October 4th from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Caritas Community Center and Cafe. The event is open to the public, but registration is required. The training costs $15 to attend.

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