Nicole Weitnauer

The Project

Anna provided legal representation for and outreach to immigrant victims of domestic violence and other crimes in the Atlanta area, and provided trainings for law enforcement agencies on the availability of immigration relief for victims.

In 2011, Georgia passed a law that gives state and local law enforcement officers the authority to enforce federal immigration law. This law endangers immigrant victims of crime, domestic violence, and trafficking by worsening their distrust and fear of local law enforcement. Criminals and traffickers often intimidate victims by threatening to report them to immigration officials if they seek help. Immigration relief is available for crime victims in the form of U and T visas and relief under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Law enforcement agencies and many immigrants in the Atlanta area would remain unaware of these protections without Nicole’s project.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Nicole:

  • Represented 76 clients in their applications for U visas, work permits, permanent residency (green card), and relief under VAWA
  • Represented eight clients in removal proceedings, successfully obtaining continuances for her clients while they wait for their visa applications to be adjudicated
  • Collaborated with other nonprofit and government agencies to provide six trainings for law enforcement agencies on the immigration relief available to survivors of domestic violence and other crimes

Where are they now?

Nicole is an Associate at the Law Offices of Socheat Chea, where she practices immigration law.

The Project

Brianna will ensure domestic violence victims can access confidential health services by protecting victim rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) through legal education, policy change, and direct representation.

Many domestic violence victims cannot access health services without the knowledge of an abuser. This happens because many victims are insured as dependents on an abuser’s health insurance policy, and Minnesota law requires health insurance providers to send a policyholder an explanation of benefits anytime someone uses the policy to pay for healthcare. As a result, many victims forgo receiving important health services out of fear an abuser will find out and become violent. Although HIPAA allows victims to request that health insurance providers do not disclose healthcare information to a policyholder, almost no one knows this protection exists, and it is rarely used. Additionally, most insurance companies do not have methods in place for processing requests, so there is a high risk that insurance companies will violate victims’ confidentiality rights when requests are made.

The Project

Katherine will improve outcomes for battered women and their children by developing tools and trainings for Child Protective Services (CPS) workers to better address cases involving domestic violence and by providing legal advocacy to battered women in custody disputes.

Adequately addressing the co-occurrence of domestic violence and child maltreatment is a national problem. Although many advocates for women and children recognize that protecting children necessitates protecting mothers, as the system currently functions, a battered mother—rather than being treated as a co-victim of a violent perpetrator—is often treated as a co-perpetrator by CPS, due to her failure to protect her child from abuse or witnessing abuse. As a result, fear of CPS involvement and removal of a child may discourage women from seeking assistance, and the removal of a child from his or her mothers’ custody may cause further emotional harm to the child’s wellbeing. Finally, racial bias in CPS collection has led to a persistent disparity in how child maltreatment cases are handled and who is placed in out-of-home care. Working with CPS and domestic violence advocates to develop the nuanced understanding of intimate partner violence and assessment tools needed to help both child and mother in domestic violence cases will improve outcomes for both women and children.

Fellowship Highlights

During the Fellowship period, Katherine:

  • Assisted over 50 individuals with issues related to domestic violence, child custody, and Child Protective Services
  • Secured pilot testing of the neutral tools in Child Protective Services in a Minnesota County
  • Collaborated with a coalition in West Virginia to expand the use of the neutral tools to Child Protective Services in West Virginia
  • Participated in the planning and outlining of an amicus brief for a high-profile case related to domestic violence and “failure to protect” laws