If President Trump’s political ascent has shown anything, it’s that he’s an expert manipulator of the legal system. Armed with legions of corporate lawyers, he has been able to shield himself from charges of sexual harassment and fraud. Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, Trump’s proposed budget would deny access to legal justice to those less fortunate—particularly two groups he’s notorious for abusing throughout his career: women and immigrants.
Trump’s budget is abusive on many fronts: First, Trump and the Republicans’ budget plans would slash funding for the Legal Service Corporation, a national network of lawyers providing critical legal assistance for the poor. More than two-thirds of legal aid clients nationwide are women, and many of their main legal problems are related to domestic violence. By curtailing access to legal services and other community-based supports, including survivors’ ability to seek justice and financial relief in court, Trump’s social-service cutbacks would further expose domestic-violence victims to prolonged suffering, mental and physical trauma and the economic abuse and impoverishment that arises when women lack the financial resources to break from their abusers and support themselves through work.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy and Research, family-court cases make up the bulk of legal-service caseloads nationwide. The largest number of cases supported by LSC attorneys are related to domestic abuse, divorce, and child-custody issues. Surveys by National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) indicate that “legal representation by an attorney was the second most sought-after—but unmet—request to social service providers, and that only 12 percent of programs nationally were able to provide this service.”
Among these clients, migrant women were especially vulnerable, even before Trump took office. A recent case in Colorado, for example, involved a woman who migrated with her abusive spouse and suffered repeated brutality at his hands for her first decade in the United States, kept captive in her home by her husband. After she fled and sought a protective order, her husband tried to drag her back to their home country. An LSC attorney helped obtain a divorce for the woman, and was able to resettle her independently in the United States.