Green card for victims of abuse

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By David M. Sperling, Esq.

“It’s no fun being an illegal alien.”   These are the lyrics to a popular song by the rock group Genesis back in 1983.

It’s a lot worse for undocumented immigrants who are single Latina women in abusive relationships.

Fortunately, there are several excellent  immigration programs that specifically benefit victims of domestic violence. The two main remedies are VAWA and the U Visa.

The Violence Against Women Act  was designed to protect women married to abusive U.S. Citizens or Legal Permanent Residents.   In this type of relationship, all the power is in the hands of the U.S. Citizen or LPR husband.  An undocumented Latina who is physically or psychologically abused may feel helpless in such a situation.

Pursuant to VAWA, an abused immigrant woman who is married to a U.S. Citizen or LPR husband can seek shelter and obtain a Green Card without her spouse’s knowledge or support.  The abuse is not necessarily physical —  proof of emotional abuse, in the form  an independent psychological evaluation  and other supporting documents, is often sufficient.

(VAWA also protects undocumented husbands married to U.S. Citizens;  we all know that some women can be just as abusive as men!)

The other main relief for undocumented Latinas  is the U-Visa.  Victims of sexual assaults and certain other crimes who cooperate with law-enforcement (police or District Attorney)  are  eligible for a U-Visa, which allows victims to obtain a work permit and eventually obtain a Green Card for herself and family derivatives.  The purpose of the U-Visa is to encourage greater cooperation between immigrant communities and local law enforcement.

While there are no interviews required for VAWA and the U-Visa, it is essential to provide specific documentary evidence of the abuse.  I would urge any woman trapped in an abusive relationship to contact SEPA-Mujer or another reputable legal-services provider.

On a final note,  women who were the victims of domestic abuse in their home countries may have grounds for political asylum, especially if their governments were unwilling or unable to protect them. However, it is essential that these women file for political asylum within one year of their entry to the United States.


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