FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 31, 2023
Kirsten Rambo, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cristina Velez, email@example.com
ASISTA Statement on USCIS’s Opening of Humanitarian, Adjustment, Removing Conditions, and Travel Documents (HART) Service Center
In a major announcement, USCIS has revealed the opening of the Humanitarian, Adjustment, Removing Conditions, and Travel Documents (HART) Service Center, a brand-new addition to its Service Center Operations. HART is currently focused on humanitarian relief, specifically VAWA self-petitions (I-360), bona fide determinations (BFDs) for U visa petitions (I-918), and reunification of refugees and asylees with their family members (I-730).
According to USCIS, the HART Service Center will be staffed with specially-trained adjudicators for these petitions, including 150 from other service centers and an additional 330 to be hired. The Center, currently working in a hybrid setting, is planned to eventually be a fully remote operation.
The opening of this new Service Center has the potential to make real, positive change for immigrant survivors of violence. Kirsten Rambo, Executive Director of ASISTA, noted, “We welcome this news about the establishment of the new HART Service Center. The current cap on the number of U visas granted each year, and the limited resources at USCIS to process applications, has led to a truly untenable situation in which survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other crimes wait many, many years for the relief they deserve. These egregious wait times only compound existing trauma for survivors and their children and extend their separation from family members abroad. We are hopeful that the new HART Service Center will help alleviate that trauma by focusing much-needed resources on providing relief to survivors more quickly and efficiently. It is our hope that this newly coordinated focus on these humanitarian cases will afford survivors much quicker access to safety, justice, and stability–all of which benefits not only survivors and their families, but also their communities and our society as a whole.”
The immigration provisions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) were designed to ensure that survivors of gender-based violence could access safety, stability, independence from abusers, and more. Over time, as backlogs and waitlists have continued to grow, survivor-based forms of immigration relief have become increasingly challenging to access, leaving survivors in precarious and often dangerous positions while they wait. The opening of the HART Service Center brings hope that the life-changing, and often life-saving protections afforded by VAWA can once again become more meaningfully accessible to survivors and their children.
Training on trauma-informed approaches will be critical for the HART Service Center’s success. Those with experience representing or supporting immigrant survivors of gender-based violence who are interested in being part of the new Service Center should note that the HART Service Center is currently hiring and will be seeking to fill 330 newly authorized positions.
ASISTA will continue to update its members and the field as information about the HART Service Center becomes available.
Established in 2008, ASISTA is a national leader in the movement for safety and justice for immigrant survivors of gender-based violence. ASISTA’s founders helped write the immigration provisions of the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act (TVPA), affording legal status to hundreds of thousands of survivors and their children since 1994. With over 2,500 members nationwide, ASISTA’s work is focused on 1) providing expert case consultation, training, and resources to attorneys and advocates navigating the complex immigration system on behalf of survivors of gender-based violence, including intervening in specific cases as needed; 2) pushing for federal, state and local policies that ensure safety and justice for immigrant survivors; and 3) coordinating lawsuits to prevent the government from unfairly deporting survivors of violence. To learn more about ASISTA’s work, click here. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram.
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