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Abused Immigrants

Are you being threatened with Deportation by your Abusive Spouse or Intimate Partner?

Understanding immigration law and its complicated implications can be a daunting, worrisome experience for anyone trying to legally enter the U.S. or stay within legal status. Add domestic violence to the picture and many immigrants simply feel helpless to escape the abusive situation and take back control of the their own lives.

You know, as do we, that your spouse or intimate partner maintains his/her control over you and your relationship by fear, specifically your fear of losing your immigration status if s/he were to call INS (CIS) or drop his/her sponsorship of your green card petition because you disobey or anger him/her. But all hope need not be lost. We’re here to help.

How Do I know if I’m in an Abusive Relationship?

For openers, an abuser could:

Try to control and isolate you from any supportive environment (friends, co-workers, family, support groups, counselors, social activites) by trying to interfere in these relationships with his/her behavior’

Project his/her own mistakes and inadequacies on you, blaming you for his/her life and attempting to make you believe that the abuse is your fault, that you somehow did something wrong to deserve it.

Rationalize the abuse and blame it on factors that have nothing to do with him/her such as: stress, problems at work, financial difficulties, alcohol or the children but takes it out on you, hoping that you will let it continue as his/her outlet.

Pretend that the abuse does not exist or denies that s/he is abusive

This is just a sampling of psychological abuse that would likely qualify for Violence Against Women Act immigration benefits. We suggest that you review “What is Extreme Cruelty for Immigration Purposes?”, the article on the left of this page for more instances of what could qualify as abuse under U.S. immigration law. Then, feel free to contact us to see how we can help.

I have not experienced any physical abuse from my husband or wife. Would you still able to help me?

Yes. The definition of “extreme cruelty” for immigration purposes and Violence Against Women Act protection does not require evidence of physical abuse to be eligible for a green card based on the abuse. Some cases are won purely on psychological abuse and often, a combination of financial and psychological abuse.

Most attorneys who do not specialize in VAWA-type cases want proof of physical abuse such as police reports and pictures of bruises and cuts to take your case, simply because it makes the case easier to prove and less work for the Attorney. The other reason is that many Attorneys who do not specialize in VAWA simply do not know that physical abuse is not required, because this is not a key area of focus.

When a case involves psychological and/or financial abuse, your story must be supported by affidavits of witnesses or other credible evidence, which takes a lot more time and work for the Attorney. Thus, just because an Attorney tells you that you have no case because you have no evidence of physical abuse, this is likely not the case. We realize how hard it is to come forward to a stranger and talk about what’s happened but you should get a second opinion if an immigration attorney tells you that you have no case. There’s too much on the line for you to give up and remain stuck in a controlling, threatening relationship.

I am not married to a Lawful Permanent Resident (green card holder) or U.S. citizen but I am still being abused. Can you help?

Yes. We may be able to help you based on new protection for survivors of domestic violence, rape, forced imprisonment, and battery, who are not married or may not even know their abuser. The abuser does not have to be in legal immigration status – and you do not even have to know if they are, under the new U visa program. If you think this might relate to what’s happened to you, feel free to call us and review the Q & A articles on the left.

I am a man who is being threatened and abused by his wife. Does the Violence Against Women Act provisions also protect me?

Yes. Understandably, it is very difficult for many men to come forward to speak to an attorney about their abusive spouse, because of the stigma or humiliation that many men feel. Further, many men do not recognize that what’s happening in their marriage is abusive, because it’s the reverse of the usual scenario of a man abusing his wife. First of all, it’s important to know that you are not alone. We have encountered many men whose lives have been threatened by their wives – by her own actions and by threats to use her family to harm the husband. We’ve represented male survivors whose psychological abuse, threats of violence, or financial extortion has been so intense that it wasn’t emotionally or physically safe to stay in the abusive relationship.

We encourage you to call us to discuss your situation. We’re here to listen. We’re here to help, if you need us.

I entered the U.S. illegally or can’t prove that I entered legally (waived in). Am I still eligible to obtain a green card as an abused spouse through VAWA?

Yes! CIS announced a nationwide policy in April 2008 confirming that survivors who entered the U.S. without inspection (EWI; entered illegally), are still eligible for permanent residence (green card) and do not have to leave the U.S. to try to obtain a green card at a consulate abroad. Prior to this announcement, CIS offices all over the U.S. were applying inconsistent policy, some district offices denying cases, some approving them. This memo was a major victory for the rights of abused immigrants, many of whom met their abusive spouse years after entering the U.S. illegally.

We encourage you to call us to discuss your situation, to make sure you are still eligible, especially if you have had multiple illegal entries or have a complicated immigration past. We’re here to listen. We’re here to help, if you need us.

I need an expert. How do I know who to turn to?

You need an attorney who regularly handles Violence Against Women (VAWA) type cases. Why? The law on VAWA cases has changed frequently over the past ten years, carving out special exceptions for immigrants in otherwise seemingly impossible legal circumstances. Most attorneys who do not regularly practice in this specialized area of immigration law are not aware of these exceptions nor of the different deadlines and cut-offs for special protections.

Why work with our firm? Our annual caseload is made up of more than 50% VAWA cases. Our staff all have backgrounds in domestic violence counseling or survivor advocacy, are fully knowledgable on the law, processing times, and what to expect. Our firm has been commended by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the same source CIS refers to, for our legal services provided to abused immigrants. Heather has also been recognized locally for her service and education efforts to rape crisis centers including Project Sister and shelters including Haven House.

Further, Heather is an expert attorney in this area, having written many articles on VAWA, conducted trainings on VAWA for other attorneys, rape crisis center advocates, and the oldest women’s shelter in the U.S. She currently serves on the board of the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women (now called Peace Over Violence) and oversees their Legal Assistance Project’s immigration clients, and is on the “VAWA experts” list of the National Lawyers Guild’s National Immigration Project (www.nlg.org). She is also an active member of the VAWA experts list of the National Lawyers Guild and a proud member of MaleSurvivor (formerly known as The National Organization on Male Sexual Victimization), offering help to abused male immigrants. To learn more about Heather, review our About Us page.

Want to Read About Cases that We Have Won?

Feel free to read here about other survivors with stories perhaps similar to your’s who now have green cards.

What to Expect If You Contact Us

We are here to help you as much as we can. That means being honest with you from day one, telling you what you can do now to improve your chances of success, and the strengths and weaknesses of your case if you decide to pursue this type of Green Card case. Don’t be worried about documenting your case when you call us; we’ll help you figure out ways of how to prove what’s happened to you and work with any counselor or shelter worker you have seen, if any.

You can be confident that we won’t try to sell you on a weak case; we won’t take your case unless we think we can succeed. We know this is your life and your future and we take that very seriously.

99% Approval on Abused-Spouse Green Cards*

* as of 6/2011. Approval rate does not guarantee success on your particular matter. Whether or not your case is likely to be successful depends on the facts, the law, and available evidence. No attorney can legally guarantee an outcome. For more information on whether the Attorney believes your case will be a success, contact us for a Attorney Case Evaluation appointment.

Legal Services Available to Abused Immigrants

Protecting Your Safety:

  • Temporary & Permanent Restraining Orders
  • U visa for victims of crime (including domestic violence)
  • T visa for victims of extreme trafficking in persons
  • S visa for being of assistance to law enforcement

Obtaining a green card:

    • Abused spouse Immigrant Visa Petitions
    • Marriage-Based & Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas
    • Gender & domestic violence based Asylum
    • Substitution of Marriage-Based Immigrant Visa for Battered Spouse Immigrant visa to keep adjustment of status (permanent residency application) going;
    • Adjustment of Status Application (green card application & representation at INS (CIS))
    • Advance Parole filings (for travel outside the U.S.)
    • Attorney Green Card Interview representation at INS (CIS) interview
    • FOIA requests to get a complete copy of your immigration file from INS (CIS)

Removing Condition from a Green Card:

    • Joint Petition to Release Condition
    • Waivers (petitioning without your spouse) to keep your green card

After Green Card is Obtained:

    • Re-entry Permits
    • Reserving Residency for Citizenship
    • Citizenship

Deportation Defense:

    • Abuse-based waivers for arrests, lying to INS, and more;
    • Business Immigration Options
    • Visitor’s Visas and more. . .

CALL US TODAY FOR AN Attorney Case Evaluation appointment

877-HUMAN-RTS (486-2678)