Beyond the U Visa and Carceral Feminist “Crimmigration”: Transforming the VAWA Self-Petition to Remedy Sexual Violence in Immigration Detention



When, and on what terms and conditions, do the experiences of an immigrant survivor of sexual violence matter? On what basis do we, and should we, devise our immigration laws in relation to gender-based violence? In wrestling with these questions, this Article seeks to develop a framework with which to more meaningfully support survivors of sexual violence in immigration detention. Building on a recognition that “the power of narrative turns the legal process into a vehicle for personal and societal definition,” this Article offers a critical examination of the “victim narratives” underlying carceral feminist and immigration machineries, as well as the structural barriers these narratives create and compound. In discussing how victim narratives move, in all their distortions, through carceral machineries, this Article offers insight into how we can create more robust forms of redress, support, and protection for survivors of sexual violence in immigration detention. It further argues that detained immigrant survivors should be understood as survivors of state violence rather than of atomized acts of sexual violence. Using this reconceptualization, this Article calls for the creation of a new form of immigration relief for immigrant survivors of state sexual violence. This relief, the Article concludes, should build on and expand the Violence Against Women Act self-petition.

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