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Success Stories – VAWA

Success Stories & Client Comments     

(Abused Spouse-based Green Cards)

The following comments are taken, with permission, from clients’ own independent evaluations of the firm after services have concluded (names are changed to protect confidentiality of our clients).


Sample of Physical Abuse Cases

Maria’s Story

Maria, a citizen of Mexico, experienced severe physical, psychological and financial abuse during her relationship with her U.S. citizen husband. She entered the U.S. illegally in the early 1990s. Her husband had filed an immigrant visa for her in the late 1990s but refused to file for her green card.

She stayed with him for the sake of the kids until the abuse became unbearable. Her husband threatened to kill her on more than one occasion and hit her in the face and threw things at her constantly. When he finally turned on the children, she demanded a divorce and then when he refused to leave them alone, she pursued and obtained a restraining order.  Before she could wrestle free of his control, he had grabbed the children by their ears and hit them on the head. He constantly threatened to take the children away if she called anyone for help or if she thought about leaving him and the abusive situation. He treated as a servant, not a wife.  He threw food on the floor and ransacked the house, only to demand that she pick everything up. Even after they separated, he’s refused to leave her alone. He continued to stalk her and harass her loved ones. He tired to use the children to try to find out where his wife has gone if she was out and what she does during the day.

The court where she obtained her restraining order referred Maria to Heather for help. Heather filed Maria’s abused spouse based immigrant visa (VAWA petition) in August 2003. Maria received her work permit 3 months later. Her VAWA case was approved in July 2004. Heather then applied for Maria’s green card based on this approval and Heather and Maria appeared together at Maria’s green card interview. Her green card was approved that same day.

Maria has been a permanent resident since March 2005. She will be eligible for citizenship in December 2007 and looks forward to becoming a citizen so she can sponsor her mother for permanent residency.

 


Ulla’s story 

Ulla, a national of Brazil, came to the U.S. on a visitor’s visa and a year later married a lawful permanent resident. Ulla’s marriage turned physically abusive months into their marriage. She soon feared saying anything to her husband, not knowing what could set him off. Her husband forced her to have sex with him often, even when his mother was in the very next room, causing Ulla physical pain and fear of humiliation. As a result, sex has become a negative and frightening memory for Ulla, who now isolates herself from men, fearing that she will be hurt again.  She fled to the safety of a friend’s home and he followed her and attacked her with her young daughter watching. He convinced her to drop her restraining order when her husband threatened to kidnap their daughter. He threatened her with deportation which frightened her so much that it kept her from reporting the abuse or telling her friends even the full story about what was going on.

Heather filed an immigrant visa (VAWA) for Ulla based on the abuse she suffered from her husband in April 2004. Eight months later, her case was approved.  Because Ulla was married (even though separated) to an abusive permanent resident spouse (as opposed to a US citizen), she was not immediately eligible to apply for a green card but will remain in valid status and keep receiving her work permit every year until her visa priority date (determined from her VAWA filing receipt notice) becomes current on the monthly visa bulletin. She can then apply for a green card and her husband will neither know about her VAWA filing and he won’t be part of her green card interview. She can rest assured that she now has control over her own immigration destiny and there’s nothing he can do to hurt her chances.

Ulla was referred to Heather for help by one of Heather’s former clients for who Heather had obtained a conditional green card waiver approval. Ulla did not have the stereotypical evidence of cruelty (police reports, pictures of bruises) and had to convince CIS why she had dropped her restraining order. Heather was able to help her document her case with cooperating witnesses and other evidence and helped her win her case. 


Andi’s story

Andi, a national of India, suffered severe physical, psychological, and financial abuse from her husband. Her abusive husband repetitively slapped her across the face, punched and pushed her body, dragged her by her hair and grabbed her neck, beginning shortly after her marriage began. Her husband raped her both anally and vaginally, including when she was menstruating. His physical assaults were not limited to the privacy of their home.

In one incident, her husband struck her three times in the head so hard that her earring broke off. The physical abuse, which had become a daily occurrence, increased at an alarming rate, so much so that her husband would sit on her chest and forcibly put a pillow or hand over her mouth so she could not cry out while he beat her, while she gasped for air.

The physical abuse only stopped when she had the courage to leave him after he threatened to kill her after he returned from work one day. Besides the physical assaults, Andi was also forced to endure extreme psychological torment and mind games from her abusive husband. He routinely cursed at her, as well, and spoke down to her, calling her “no good”, and telling her “I don’t like you” and “I never should have married you” over and over.

He humiliated her in front of her own family, by commanding her and putting her family out when they visited, making extraordinary demands of her family. Andi’s husband treated her as a servant, not a wife. He made her do all the household chores and griped about every small detail. He also refused to allow her to work outside of the home.  He told her that a wife was a servant in the home and that is where her work was. Even after they separated, he refuses to leave her alone.  He continues to stalk her and harass her loved ones even though she has fled. Although his personal calls stopped, he continued to email her, stalking her anyway he could.

Andi lives outside of California. There were few, if any, immigration attorneys in her state who had Heather’s experience with VAWA cases so she hired Heather to represent her. She had also been told by other immigration attorneys that she had no case because she never reported the assaults to the police (had no police reports) and was too scared of her husband to obtain a restraining order. Heather worked with her witnesses to keep Andi and her witnesses cooperation safe and confidential, so her husband would not know what she was doing and was able to document her case in non-typical ways.

Heather filed an immigrant visa (VAWA) for Andi based on the abuse she suffered from her husband in April 2005. In less than four months, her case was approved.  Because Andi was married to an abusive permanent resident, she was not immediately eligible to apply for a green card but will remain in valid status and keep receiving her work permit every year until her visa priority date (determined from her VAWA filing receipt notice) becomes current on the monthly visa bulletin. She can then apply for a green card and her husband will neither know about her VAWA filing and he won’t be part of her green card interview. She can rest assured that she now has control over her own immigration destiny and there’s nothing he can do to hurt her chances.

 

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Sample of Psychological & Financial Abuse Cases

Pan’s Story

Pan, a national of China, was forced to endure extreme psychological torment from his U.S. citizen wife. His wife attempted to isolate him from much of the outside world including trying to interfere with his social friendships and monitoring his whereabouts, making it almost impossible to have a life outside their home. She constantly questioning Pan when he returned from work or an outing with friends.  Soon enough, every time he left their home, she was demanding to know where he was going, who he was going to see, and when he would come home. When he was out with friends or colleagues, she paged him constantly, telling him to call home immediately. He eventually stopped associating with others because his wife’s behavior constantly caused him grief and humiliation in front of his friends.

His wife’s increasingly control over his life and the isolation she had caused him to experience was worsened by how she treated him in the privacy of their home. She regularly picked fights with him and repeatedly called Pan a “loser”, “jerk”, and “son of a bitch” in any argument, even in front of visiting guests causing him intense embarrassment and hurt. She convinced him to quit his studies and with the promise that their marriage was enough to keep his immigration status valid. She knew, having gone through the green card process herself, that marriage alone would not keep her husband in valid status and that he would need her sponsorship to legalize his status, or else face deportation. Her threats to have him deported frightened Pan into submitting to the abuse and further solidified and perpetuated the dominance and control she exercised over his life. He fell victim to his wife’s extreme financial manipulation and her efforts to keep him helplessly dependent upon him. She refused to let Pan use any of the money from their joint bank account.  This was the same account that he deposited his paycheck.  Anytime she did not get what she wanted from Pan, she would spend all the money in the account to demonstrate that she was the one with the power in the relationship.  She took Pan’s credit cards and ran them up to their maximum limit any time he questioned her.  She refused to help him pay the balances and left him in insurmountable debt, adding to his stress and anxiety.                                 

Heather filed Pan’s abused spouse based immigrant visa (VAWA petition) in January 2004. He received his work permit 3 months later. His VAWA case was approved 9 months later. Heather then applied for Pan’s green card based on this approval and Heather and Pan appeared together at his green card interview. His green card was approved that same day.

Pan has been a permanent resident since March 2005. Pan looks forward to becoming a U.S. citizen. He will be eligible to apply for citizenship in December 2007 (even though he is now divorced from his US citizen wife) because he filed for his green card based on VAWA.

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