First Advisor

Janice Haaken

Term of Graduation

Winter 2014

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Applied Psychology






Victims of family violence -- Counseling of -- Oregon -- Portland, Women undocumented immigrants -- Counseling of -- Oregon -- Portland, Immigration enforcement -- Oregon -- Portland, Undocumented immigrants -- Government policy -- United States, Family violence -- Government policy -- Oregon



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 195 pages)


The public focus on domestic violence has been one of the most successful campaigns of the modern women's movement. This success was achieved in part through the creation of strategic alliances among agencies and organizations responding to partner violence. One of the most contested of these alliances involved partnering with the criminal justice system. While representing an advance in holding police accountable in protecting all citizens (Coker, 2006), this alliance has had problematic consequences, particularly as it has extended state power into the lives of women of color (e.g. Richie, 2005). This problem is exacerbated by new collaborations between law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Federal mandates like the Secure Communities program bring together local law enforcement and ICE throughout the United States, to increase deportation rates (Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 2009). As a result, many recommendations by domestic violence advocates to survivors now potentially include the presence of ICE in that referral.

This dissertation explores how domestic violence advocates within the tri-county area of Portland, Oregon are responding to law enforcement-ICE partnerships. Advocates remain understudied in the domestic violence literature, in spite of the complexity of their roles. This dissertation fills this research gap in examining the processes advocates employ in responding to dilemmas faced by marginalized survivors. A total of twenty-five advocates from three separate agencies participated in the study, which centered on focus groups carried out in the agency settings.

The dissertation pursues three research questions: 1) How do advocates work through a key dilemma that has emerged in their practice? 2) What are the discursive strategies enlisted by advocates in addressing a dilemma at the border of domestic violence and immigration politics? 3) What is the relationship between each group's proximity to working with undocumented survivors and their decision-making process?

A case study methodology was used to evaluate proximity to work with undocumented survivors and the organizations' general orientation to domestic violence work. Transcripts of the focus groups were analyzed using a discursive method centered on identifying how the groups worked through a set of dilemmas presented in the focus groups, which involved a crisis call scenario involving an undocumented woman and an agency practice common to many domestic violence service providers.

In the analysis of discursive strategies of the groups, a key finding centered on the groups' use of a decision-tree heuristic to work through dilemmas of practice presented in the two scenarios. This discursive strategy facilitated the process of group decision-making at points where the actions required were clear and concrete. However, as more complexity, ambiguity or ambivalence were introduced, the limitations of the decision-tree strategy become more apparent.

Findings related to the agency's proximity to undocumented workers suggest that this affinity was less important than was the agency's working relationship to the Criminal Justice System (CJS). Closeness to the CJS was associated with reliance on a discourse that places the police at the center of services for all survivors of domestic violence, regardless of documentation status, and a heightened focus on the risk of lethality to rationalize the risks associated with referrals involving law enforcement-ICE collaborations.


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