The office of domestic violence in the United States Justice Department define domestic violence as a “pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.” [www.justi
Men, women and children can be victims of domestic violence regardless of race, ethnicity, immigration status, income, or other factors. Domestic violence victims face high rates of depression, sleep disturbances, anxiety, flashbacks, and other emotional distress. In the United States, undocumented aliens who are victims of domestic violence experience a more compounded level of stress. Due to their illegal status, victims of domestic violence are unable to come forward and report their abusers to the police. Quite often the abusers may threaten that they will be deported if they report to the police. Many victims suffer in silence and live in fear.
There is good news for undocumented aliens who are victims of domestic violence. The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) is a United States federal law that enables victims of domestic violence who are the child, parent, or current/former spouse of a United States citizen or a permanent resident (green card holder) and are abused by the citizen or permanent resident become eligible to apply for a green card themselves without needing the abuser to file for immigration benefits on their behalf. The law allows the victim to apply without the abuser’s knowledge. USCIS will not notify the abuser about the filing. Victims must establish that they:
•Have or had a qualifying relationship with the abuser spouse, or, are the parent or child of the abuser,
•Live or lived with the abuser,
•Have good moral character, and
•Have been victims of abuse.
The law apply equally to all. Victims of domestic violence, whether a spouse, child, or parent of the abuser, may self-petition. They qualify to work in the United States if their 1-360 Petition is approved and are placed in deferred action. Children listed on approved Form I-360, may also apply for work authorization. Undocumented aliens who have experienced abuse may be eligible for waiver if they entered the United States illegally or have criminal record.
The content of this article is intended for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. Those seeking specific legal advice should contact Gertrude Onuoha Esq. at 575 Lexington Avenue, 4th Floor New York, New York 10022 (PHONE) 212-971-9704(cell 7326425605) (FAX) 866-823-6996
Gertrude Onuoha Esq. is a licensed attorney in New York State. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.