Maria is a dutiful wife who loves her husband, Mike, very much. She came to the United States (U.S.) illegally with her parents when she was a child, and she currently has no status in the U.S. Sometime during her marriage, Mike became physically abusive to Maria. He began to hit her and humiliate her in public. Recently, he injured their two-year-old daughter in a fit of rage. Maria has pleaded with Mike to stop, but he just threatens to deport her and to turn her over to immigration authorities. He has even threatened to kill her. Maria feels trapped and doesn't know what to do. She wants to leave but doesn't think she can. She is constantly afraid for herself and for her daughter. What can Maria do? As a person without status, what are her options? Her daughter's options? What if Maria, with no legal status, was Mike's mother instead of his wife? How would that change things?
This story is fiction, but domestic violence is a serious and prevalent issue plaguing the U.S. today. Domestic violence affects people of all genders, sexes, classes, and ages. Our lawmakers have recognized this and have come up with a way to help those that have been abused: The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
VAWA allows an abused spouse or child of a U.S. Citizen (USC) or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), or an abused parent of a U.S. Citizen, to self-petition for lawful status in the United States. He or she could then receive employment authorization and access public health benefits. VAWA provides domestic violence survivors with the means that are essential to escaping the cycle of violence and establishing safe, independent lives.
The VAWA petitioner, and the petitioner's children, may be able to receive permission to work and live in the U.S. and receive a green card, all without the abuser's knowledge or help. The petitioner may also receive government benefits, such as food stamps, and free medical care.
The attorneys at Dyer Immigration Law Group can assist in the process of applying for VAWA. The self-petitioner will need to show the following:
- He/she is a spouse or child of an abusive USC or LPR
- He/she is eligible for immigrant classification based on this relationship
- He/she is now living in the U.S. or has lived in the U.S. with the USC or LPR resident abuser in the past
- He/she has been battered or been the subject of extreme cruelty during the marriage
- He/she is a person of good moral character
- The removal or deportation would result in extreme hardship to him/her, or to his/her child
- He/she originally married for love and not a green card (known as a "sham" marriage)
VAWA petitioning is not an easy process, and gathering all of the evidence is often the hardest part. Documents evidencing abuse will be needed. Documents may include the following: restraining orders, police reports, 911 call transcripts, police officer statements, medical records, criminal court records, domestic violence shelter records, mental health/clinical records, photographs of injuries, letters/notes from the abuser, school records containing comments by child about abuse, and witness affidavits.
If you have been a victim of domestic violence, and are here without lawful status, come talk to us at Dyer Immigration. Our attorneys will help you explore your options and review your eligibility for VAWA, assist you in gathering important documents, advocate on your behalf, and support you along the process.
The Dyer Immigration Law Group can help victims of domestic violence put together comprehensive and compelling VAWA applications so that these survivors can apply for the relief Congress provided them.