NEW DANGERS FOR BATTERED IMMIGRANTS:
The Untold Effects of the Demise of 245(i)
Compiled on behalf of the
National Network on Behalf of Battered Immigrant Women
Jessica Cundari Erika Esterbrook
with the assistance of Alec Christoff,
Lucia Duncan, and Wayne Krause
SUMMARY OF STATEMENT OF NOW LEGAL DEFENSE AND
EDUCATION FUND IN SUPPORT OF H.R. 3083
THE BATTERED IMMIGRANT WOMEN'S PROTECTION ACT OF 1999
behalf of NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund and the
National Network on Behalf of Battered Immigrant Women
present this testimony in support of the Battered Immigrant
Women's Protection Act of 1999 which will go far toward
furthering the original purpose of VAWA's immigration
provisions -- freeing battered immigrant women abused by
citizen and lawful permanent resident spouses or parents to
report the abuse to police, seek help and prosecute their
abuser's for the multiple crimes they commit against family
members. We have learned much over the past 6 years about
instances in which the original legislation works
effectively and when it does not. H.R. 3083 is designed to
correct unforseen problems in the legislation and erosions
in access to VAWA that have prevented many of the needy
domestic violence victims VAWA sought to protect from
seeking help. Helping battered immigrant women escape abuse
and bring their abusers to justice will reduce domestic
violence in our communities and will ensure that the citizen
children of immigrant parents have the same opportunity to
live lives free of domestic violence that VAWA sought to
provide to all domestic violence victims.
NOW LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND
IN SUPPORT OF H.R. 3083
THE BATTERED IMMIGRANT WOMEN'S PROTECTION ACT OF 1999
SUBMITTED TO THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY'S
SUBCOMMITTEE ON IMMIGRATION AND CLAIMS
Legislative Hearing on H.R. 3083
The Battered Immigrant Women's Protection Act of 1999
July 20, 2000
Leslye E. Orloff, Esq.
Immigrant Women Program
NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund
1522 K Street N.W. Suite 550
Washington, D.C. 20005
STATEMENT OF NOW LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND
IN SUPPORT OF H.R. 3083
THE BATTERED IMMIGRANT WOMEN'S PROTECTION ACT OF 1999
Mr. Chairman, Members of the
Subcommittee, my name is Leslye Orloff and I am the Director
of the Immigrant Women Program at NOW Legal Defense and
Education Fund. NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund is a
leading national, nonprofit civil rights organization with a
30 year history of defining and defending women's rights. We
provide a broad range of legal and educational services
aimed at eliminating sex-based discrimination and securing
equal rights for all women focusing on issues of domestic
violence, child care, employment, immigration, reproductive
rights, and economic justice. NOW Legal Defense and
Education Fund's Immigrant Women Program co-chairs the
National Network on Behalf of Battered Immigrant Women(1)
broad-based national coalition of more than four hundred
member organizations and individuals that work to improve
protections for and provide services to immigrant victims of
domestic violence. We appreciate the opportunity to submit
this testimony in support of H.R. 3083, the Battered
Immigrant Women's Protection Act of 1999, legislation that
will enhance protections for one of the most marginalized
groups in the United States: immigrant victims of domestic
I begin, I want to thank Chairman Smith and the Members of
the Subcommittee for inviting me to testify today. I am
especially grateful to Congresswomen Schakowsky,
Jackson-Lee, and Morella for sponsoring H.R. 3083 and for
spearheading this bipartisan effort to protect battered
immigrant women and children. A special thanks to Ranking
Member Sheila Jackson Lee for her leadership and to
Congressman McCollum for his commitment to these issues.
Lastly, I would like to acknowledge Senators Abraham and
Kennedy for sponsoring Title V of S. 2787 the Violence
Against Women Act, the Senate counterpart to H.R. 3083,
which is also devoted to ending violence against immigrant
women and children.
Violence, Power, and Control Against Immigrants
violence is a societal problem of epidemic proportions.
Experts estimate that two to four million American women are
battered every year,(2)
that between 3.3 and 10 million children witness violence in
information about the extent and impact of domestic violence
emerges, it has been identified as a criminal justice issue,
a public health crisis, and a costly drain on economic
violence crosses ethnic, racial, age, national origin,
religious, gender, geographical and socioeconomic lines.(5)
immigrants have been particularly vulnerable to becoming
victims of domestic violence. Research has found that
34-49.8% of immigrant women experience domestic violence
over the course of their lifetimes.(6)
married women experience higher levels of domestic violence
research has found that over 50% of immigrant women surveyed
were still living with their abusers.(8)
of domestic violence are particularly vulnerable because
they face even greater obstacles in their efforts to escape
culture and immigration status often block victims from
access to information about legal remedies, and complicate
their efforts to obtain the relief needed to end the
the case with all victims of domestic violence, battered
immigrants experience physical violence, coercion, threats,
intimidation, isolation, destruction of important documents
or possessions, and emotional, sexual or economic abuse.(11)
of battered immigrants are ultimately complicated by their
abuser's use of immigration status as a tool of control.
Immigration-related abuse is a critical way in which
batterers of immigrant women exert power and control to
dominate and isolate their abused family members. Research
indicates that immigration-related abuse most often
co-exists with or appears to be a predictor of physical
and/or sexual violence.(12)
1994 VAWA Immigration Provisions Congressional Intent
1994, Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
in an effort to deter and punish violence crimes against
the complexity of hardships facing battered immigrants, VAWA
contained immigration provisions that would protect battered
to this enactment, the citizen or lawful permanent resident
spouse had full control over the legal status of their
immigrant spouse. Because abusers often use immigration
status as a form of control, many battered immigrants who
could have been granted legal immigration status if their
abusive spouse chose to file a visa application with the
Immigration and Naturalization Service were left without
legal immigration status in the U.S. Research has found that
in abusive relationships, 72.3% of citizen and legal
permanent resident spouses never filed immigration papers
for their immigrant wives.(15)
fear of deportation paralyzed immigrant victims and
prevented them from calling the police for help, from
cooperating with prosecutors bringing criminal cases against
their abusers and from seeking protection orders.(17)
Congress enacted the self-petitioning provisions in Subtitle
D of the Act Ato permit self-petitioning for battered
immigrant women to prevent the citizen or legal resident
spouse from using the petitioning process as a means to
control or abuse an alien spouse.@(18)B
for self-petitioning and by assuring that all the other
provisions of the Act applied to battered immigrants,
Congress envisioned several overall benefits: removing the
abuser's control over the victim's immigration status,(19)
reporting of the abuse without the risk of deportation,(20)and
facilitating prosecution of abusers, by making law
enforcement officials more receptive to complaints of
domestic violence and thereby eliminating a class of abusers
immune from criminal prosecution.(21)
Impediments That Trap Battered Immigrants in Violent
Legal Defense and Education Fund's Immigrant Women Program
and the National Network on Behalf of Battered Immigrant
Women receive over 2,000 calls a year from advocates and
attorneys trying to help women and children who have been
victims of domestic violence. Although over 5200 battered
immigrants have received help under VAWA, we are finding
that several categories of immigrants battered by citizen
and lawful permanent resident spouses and parents cannot
attain VAWA protections either because of omissions in the
original legislation or because of implementation problems.(22)
The following are some examples of the access problems
is a Cambodian wife of a member of the U.S. military who is
currently stationed abroad in a country that is not her
homeland. During her abusive marriage she has lived with her
citizen husband in the U.S. and in various countries in
which he has been stationed. Her relationship has been
plagued with sexual abuse with her husband forcing Vanna to
engage in sexual behaviors that made her feel demeaned and
humiliated. His physical and sexual abuse has included
threats to kill Vanna in which he told her that he could
make her death look like an accident. Her husband also
restricts the amount of food she is allowed to eat and where
she was allowed to go. He threatens her with withdrawing the
immigration papers he filed for her and telling her that she
would be deported back to Cambodia where she would probably
be killed. She feels trapped and isolated on the military
base. Vanna wants to return to the U.S., but she does not
qualify for VAWA self-petitioning because she lives abroad.
H.R. 3083 would help Vanna by allowing abused spouses and
children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to
file for VAWA protection whether or not they were residing
in the United States.
is the 21- year old Panamanian daughter of an abusive lawful
permanent resident. She has been sexually abused by her
father since she was in junior high school. Her father
brought her mother and Sara into the U.S. without visas when
she was twelve years old. Her father has never filed a
family-based petition for his wife nor Sara. By the time she
finally found the courage to disclose the sexual abuse to
her mother, who had also been abused by her father Sara was
already 21 and it was too late for Sara to receive
protection under VAWA. She is afraid to report the incest to
authorities because she has no immigration status and fears
being deported to her home country where she knows no one.
As a result her father goes unpunished and Sara struggles to
overcome the effects of the abuse. H.R. 3083 would allow
Sara to file for relief under VAWA.
was born in El Salvador. She came to the U.S. at age five
and grew up in the United States where she met and married
her lawful permanent resident spouse. Shortly after the
marriage her husband began closely monitoring her every
move. When Lupe was pregnant with their first child Lupe
fled to her parents house. Her husband followed her and
ordered her to get into his car. When she refused he dragged
her by the hair into the passenger's seat. Her pregnant
belly got stuck between the seats and she could not move.
When her mother and brother tried to help, he threw her
mother to the ground and sped off with Lupe. He drove her to
his apartment and locked her inside. After the baby was
born, he began raping Lupe and threatening that if she
didn't comply, she would never see the baby again. When she
found him abusing the baby, locking him in a closet to
punish him for crying, and crushing his favorite toys
underfoot, Lupe fled back to her parents' house. After a
restraining order was issued, he again abducted her and
threatened to drown her. Following this incident Lupe
retained an attorney and filed a self-petition that has been
approved. Lupe fears having to return to El Salvador to
obtain her lawful permanent residency. Her husband continues
to stalk her and has many family members there. Lupe does
not speak Spanish and her protection order, which granted
her custody, cannot be enforced if she leaves the United
States. Leaving the country to obtain permanent residency is
too dangerous for her. H.R. 3083 would allow Lupe to safely
apply for adjustment of status in the United States.
3083: Restoring Access, Addressing Omissions, and Correcting
Unintended Effects and Implementation Problems of VAWA 1994
3083 continues Congress's commitment to the plight of
battered immigrants and the work that began with the passage
of VAWA 1994 to help battered immigrant women secure lawful
immigration status and legal protection so they may flee
violent homes, cooperate in the criminal prosecution of
their abusers, and take control of their lives without
fearing deportation. The specific purposes behind H.R. 3083
are tri-fold. First, the bill restores access to VAWA relief
that was weakened by subsequent legislation. Second, H.R.
3083 offers access to lawful permanent residence status to
victims who were inadvertently omitted under VAWA 1994.
Finally, the bill corrects unintended effects and
implementation problems of VAWA 1994 that were not
anticipated when the bill was enacted. Some of the
highlights of H.R. 3083's provisions include:
Access to VAWA
Changes to immigration laws that occurred after VAWA became
law in 1994 now force many battered immigrant women and
children with approved VAWA self-petitions to choose between
remaining without access to lawful permanent residency
status and being required to leave the United States to
obtain their lawful permanent residency. This is true
despite the fact that the INS has already determined that
they will suffer extreme hardship if returned to their home
country. Further, the law makes no exceptions for battered
immigrants who have proven that returning home will
jeopardize their safety, undermine the treatment they rely
on to overcome the abuse or interfere with custody decrees
crafted to protect children from the harmful effects of
domestic violence. H.R. 3083 allows battered immigrants with
approved self-petitions to adjust their status to lawful
permanent resident while remaining safely in the United
Omissions in VAWA 1994
The fact that domestic violence often spreads from the
battered spouse as the target of the violence to abuse of
the children has been well documented.(23)
Battered immigrant women fleeing abusive relationships must
be able to protect to their children. VAWA allows battered
immigrants to include their undocumented children who are
under 21 years old at the time of filing. Currently, even if
a child is under 21 when the self-petition is filed, they
must remain under 21 until they can obtain lawful permanent
residency status based on the approved VAWA self-petition.
Since the waiting time between filing of the self-petition
and obtaining lawful permanent residency can range from 6
months to almost 5 years, many children who were to be
offered protection by including them in their mother's
petition Aage out@ by turning 21. The effect of this gap in
the legislation is to force battered immigrants with older
children to remain with their abusers as the only hope that
her older children will benefit from a petition that their
abusive spouse can file for the child even if the child
turns 21. In order to assure that children over 21 have
access to VAWA provisions, H.R. 3083 allows derivative
children who are under 21 when the self-petition is filed,
to continue to be included in their parent's petition until
they can obtain their permanent residence status.
the Residence in the U.S. Requirement: Battered immigrants married to either citizens or permanent
residents living outside the U.S. have no access to VAWA
immigration relief. Current VAWA provisions state that an
applicant must reside within the territory of the U.S. to
file a self-petition. There is not a residency requirement
in regular family-based visa petitions. A citizen or legal
permanent resident spouse living abroad can file a visa
petition on behalf of their immigrant spouse at the American
Consulate. Battered immigrants need the same access to
immigration benefits they would have if their spouse was not
abusive. H.R. 3083 allows abused spouses and children of
citizens and permanent residents to file for VAWA protection
without regard to where they currently reside, this removes
an incentive for abused immigrant spouses and children to
remain with their abusers. Because of the transient nature
of the military (military members move twice as often as the
civilian workforce), military spouses are particularly
affected by this provision. This is important because the
frequency of abuse in military families is proportionally
much greater and more severe than in civilian families.(24)
of Changes in the Abuser's Immigration Status: Conviction of a domestic violence crime is a removable
offense. One unintended effect is that the battered
immigrant's pending VAWA self-petition becomes void when her
husband is deported. This creates a perverse incentive for
the battered immigrant either to tolerate the abuse rather
than report it or to refuse to cooperate in his prosecution.
H.R. 3083 allows battered immigrants to file a VAWA
self-petition that would remain valid even if the batterer
is deported due to domestic violence.
Effects and VAWA Implementation Problems
VAWA self-petitioning applicants would normally be
beneficiaries of regular family-based petitions, but for the
actions of the abusive spouse or parent. To win approval of
a family-based visa petition the parties must prove that
they have a valid marriage or parent/child relationship. In
addition to this proof, VAWA self-petitioners must prove
that they have been victims of battery or extreme cruelty at
the hands of their citizen or resident spouse or parent and
that they are persons of good moral character. Once the
self-petitioner has proved all of these facts, they must
additionally prove that their deportation would cause
extreme hardship to themselves or their children. Extreme
hardship is a difficult evidentiary test that battered
immigrants who file applications with INS without the
assistance of an attorney find almost impossible to meet.
The extreme hardship requirement has resulted in INS denials
of self-petitions of many unrepresented battered immigrants
are of good moral character, who present compelling evidence
of abuse and whom INS believes are in good faith valid
marriages. This result is contrary to VAWA's goal of
providing relief to battered immigrants; with the end result
of abusers continuing to go unprosecuted. INS' reviewed VAWA
cases and found that in no instance did they find credible
evidence of marriage fraud and credible evidence of domestic
violence in the same case.(25)
evidentiary requirements are ,even without extreme hardship,
much higher than the proof requirements in all other family
based visa cases. H.R. 3083 deletes the extreme hardship
requirement recognizing that it poses a difficult,
unnecessary hurdle that deprives many needy victims of
VAWA's protections and allows their abusers to go free.
In legislation crafted by Chairman Smith, Congress provided
battered immigrants who were eligible under VAWA or who were
the beneficiaries of petitions filed by their spouses or
parents, access to the public benefits safety net. Under
current immigration laws, however, immigrants who use those
benefits may be deemed public charges and denied lawful
permanent residency. H.R. 3083 creates an exception to the
public charge ground of inadmissibility for battered
immigrants who need access to benefits in order to flee
their abusers and survive economically.
Process to Reinstate a Revocation: As the protections offered battered immigrants through VAWA become
more well known in immigrant communities, the National
Network on Behalf of Battered Immigrant Women has been
receiving increased reports of abusers seeking to revoke
approved family-based visa petition and have their spouses
placed in removal proceedings. H.R. 3083 would prevent an
approved petition from being revoked and would allow INS to
reinstate a revoked family-based visa petition when INS
received credible evidence that the citizen or lawful
permanent resident spouse or parent has perpetrated battery
or extreme cruelty. Further, the H.R. 3083 provisions will
require that once the INS or the immigration judge
determines that the spouse or parent is an abuser, they must
act to undo any harm that has occurred as a result of the
abusers withdrawal or revocation of the petition or his
report that initiated removal proceedings. For example, if
an abuser revoked a petition and convinced INS to place his
abused immigrant wife in removal proceedings, INS would be
explicitly authorized to close those proceedings and to
allow the victim to self-petition under VAWA.
to Legal Services:
Battered immigrants are far more successful in their
applications for VAWA self-petitions when they are
represented by lawyers who have received domestic violence
training. Legal Services Corporation (LSC) funded programs
provide the vast majority of legal services to battered
women in the country. Recognizing this fact, in 1997
Congress amended legal services appropriations legislation
to allow lawyers working for LSC-funded programs to
represent battered immigrant women, a variety of domestic
violence related matters, without regard to their
immigration status in so long as those services are funded
with non-LCS dollars. The legislation, however, used the INS
definition of family relationships (spouses and children)
rather than each states' own domestic violence definition.
This had the effect of cutting off access to legal services
for many battered immigrants who would be protected if the
state definition had been used B including immigrant women
battered by their citizen boyfriends. H.R. 3038 will make an
important technical correction to fix this problem.
Recommendations and Conclusion
behalf of NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund and the
National Network on Behalf of Battered Immigrant Women,
thank you for the opportunity to present this testimony in
support of the Battered Immigrant Women's Protection Act of
1999. The Act will go far toward furthering the original
purpose of VAWA's immigration provisions -- freeing battered
immigrant women abused by citizen and lawful permanent
resident spouses or parents to report the abuse to police,
to seek help and to prosecute their abusers for the multiple
crimes they commit against family members. We have learned
much over the six years, since VAWA's enactment, about
instances in which the original legislation works
effectively and when it does not. H.R. 3083 is designed to
correct unforseen problems in the legislation and erosions
in access to VAWA that have prevented many of the needy
domestic violence victims VAWA sought to protect from
seeking help. Helping battered immigrant women escape abuse
and bring their abusers to justice will reduce domestic
violence in our communities and will ensure that the citizen
children of immigrant parents have the same opportunity to
live lives free of domestic violence that VAWA sought to
provide to all domestic violence victims.
Columbia Road, N.W.
stories recounted in this volume document the experiences of
battered immigrants from around the country. In all of these
cases, battered immigrants either filed or are in the
process of filing self-petitions for lawful permanent
residency pursuant to Subtitle G of the Violence Against
Women Act (VAWA) of 1994. The purpose of this compilation is
to highlight the potential hardships and dangers that
battered immigrants will face now that §245(i) of the
Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) has sunsetted. This
provision previously allowed many immigrants, including
battered immigrants, to obtain lawful permanent residency
while they remained in the United States. Since the
sunsetting of §245(i), immigrants who have not been
lawfully present in the U.S. must now leave the country as
the only means of obtaining lawful permanent residency.
Battered immigrants are not exempted from this requirement.
They must also leave the U.S. as the only means to obtain
permanent residency through VAWA. This makes bettered
immigrants more vulnerable to abuse and may ultimately deter
them from leaving their abusers and bringing charges against
Battered Immigrants Through VAWA
who are abused by their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent
resident spouses or parents may obtain their "green
cards" without relying on their abusers to file the
papers for them with the Immigration and Naturalization
Service (INS). The Violence Against Women Act of 1994
included a provision that allowed battered immigrants the
opportunity to "self-petition," that is, file an
application for permanent residency based on the abuse that
occurred in the marriage or the parent-child relationship.(26)
filing a self-petition, the battered immigrant would be free
to leave the abusive household. Prior to 1994, abusers had
total control over their spouses' or children's immigration
status. Battered immigrants could not file for lawful
permanent residency on their own behalf. As a result, many
battered immigrants remained without legal immigration
status in the U.S. because their abusers used control over
their immigration status as a tool to continue the abuse.
Expiration of §245(i)
At the time that VAWA was
passed, there already existed a provision in the INA that
allowed immigrants who had entered the U.S. illegally to
"adjust" from approved visa status to permanent
resident status while remaining in the U.S. Since 1994, any
immigrant who entered the U.S. illegally, or in the case of
relatives of lawful permanent residents, entered lawwfully
but worked without permission or overstayed a visa, could
pay a fine of $1000 and adjust to permanent resident status
while remaining in the U.S.(27)
The INA provision that allowed
for this adjustment of status was §245(i). This provision
brought in significant revenue to the INS(28)
allowed those with approved immigrant visa petitions to
remain in the U.S. to continue working and supporting their
families while adjusting their residency status.(29)
absence of §245(i) would have meant that all immigrants(31)
with approved immigrant visas who either entered the U.S.
illegally or overstayed an earlier visa could no longer
adjust status within the continental United States. Instead,
these immigrants would be forced to return to their home
countries of origin and obtain their green cards through
processing at U.S. embassies or consulates abroad.
July 29, 1997, the Senate voted to permanently extend §245(i); but on September 30, 1997, the House of Representatives
voted to allow §245(i) to expire.(32)
later, on October 1, 1997, President Clinton signed a
resolution that extended §245(i) until October 23, 1997.(33)
October 23, 1997, arrived, the President again extended §245(i),
this time until November 7, 1997.(34)
on November 13, 1997, both the House and Senate voted to let
§245(i) sunset on January 14, 1998.(35)
November 26, 1997, the President signed legislation entitled
the "Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the
Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of
legislation contained a provision that eliminated the
benefits of §245(i) for all immigrants seeking permanent
residency status. When §245(i) ended, battered immigrants
petitioning for immigration relief under VAWA lost their
ability to obtain green cards while remaining safely within
VAWA's "Extreme Hardship" Requirement and §245(i)
sunsetting of §245(i) presents an urgent problem for
battered immigrants who self-petition under VAWA. Without §245(i),
many battered immigrants with approved VAWA self-petitions
filed after January 14, 1998, will be required to return to
their countries of origin to obtain their green cards. These
battered immigrants have already proven to the INS's
satisfaction that they must not return to their countries of
origin. This is because all battered immigrants whose VAWA
self-petitions have been approved by INS have demonstrated
that they would suffer "extreme hardship" if they
were forced to return to their countries of origin.(37)
a battered immigrant will meet the extreme hardship test if
she proves that her abuser is able to travel to her country
of origin, that she will be in danger due to the loss of her
U.S. restraining order when she travels outside the U.S., or
that her country of origin lacks laws or services to protect
her from abuse. She may also meet the test if she proves
that she will lose custody or visitation of her children by
being forced to leave the U.S. or if she or her children
will suffer from physical or mental health problems by
discontinuing the treatment they receive in the U.S. to help
them cope with the effects of the abuse. She must show that
similar physical or mental health services are unavailable
in her country of origin. In addition, she may meet the test
by demonstrating that she and her children will suffer due
to human rights violations or political and social turmoil
present in her country of origin.(38)
Immigrants who benefit from
family-based petitions filed by non-abusive spouses or
parents can receive lawful permanent residency status
without proving extreme hardship.(39)
Current law places battered
immigrants who have met the extreme hardship test and
received approval of their VAWA self-petitions in a
difficult and dangerous "catch-22." The law forces
them to return to their countries of origin as the only
means to obtain their green cards, despite the fact that the
INS has determined that they cannot safely return. The
sunsetting of §245(i) forces all illegally present
immigrants to return to their countries of origin to get
their green cards. The law makes no exception for battered
immigrants who have already proven that returning to their
countries of origin will jeopardize their safety,
undermining the treatment they rely on to overcome the abuse
and/or interfere with crafted to protect children from the
harmful effects of domestic violence.
Effects for VAWA Self-petitioners
immigrants who have successfully self-petitioned under VAWA
will suffer many hardships and dangers if they are forced to
return to their countries of origin to obtain their green
cards. The stories contained here illustrate the fact that
battered immigrant VAWA self-petitioners experience many of
the same hardships and dangers even though they come from
different countries, live in different states, and make
their homes in both urban and rural communities. These
hardships and dangers can be summarized as follows:
of being abused abroad
the U.S. deprives battered immigrants of the protection
provided by U.S. laws, court orders, and law enforcement.(40)
orders are not valid outside the territory of the U.S.,
which makes battered immigrants vulnerable to abuse the
moment they leave the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts.(41)
Violence Against Women Act made restraining orders
enforceable across state lines in every U.S. jurisdiction;
however, these orders have no effect outside of the U.S.(42)
who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents have the
ability to travel abroad easily and can take advantage of
abused immigrants' lack of legal protection. Since the
Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act
(IIRIRA) of 1996 made the crime of domestic violence a
deportable offense, a batterer who is a lawful permanent
resident convicted of a domestic violence crime may be
deported to the same country where the battered immigrant
will be forced to return to obtain her green card.(43)
are no procedures currently in place at U.S. embassies and
consulates abroad for processing cases of battered
immigrants with VAWA self-petitions approved by the INS.
Although battered immigrants are exempt from the three- and
ten-year bars to re-entry which apply to other immigrants
who have been unlawfully present in the U.S., there are no
regulations implementing these exemptions for VAWA
Thus, we cannot predict how long a battered immigrant will
have to remain abroad to obtain her green card under VAWA.
battered immigrant decides not to take her children with her
when she travels abroad to get her green card, she must then
locate a temporary place for the children to stay that is
safe from her abuser. This is often a very difficult, if not
impossible, task. If the battered immigrant does succeed in
finding a place for her children to stay, once she leaves
the U.S., her abuser may file for permanent custody of the
children, claiming that she has abandoned them.
many battered immigrants may not be able to leave the U.S.
because custody matters are still pending in the courts. A
battered immigrant may not remove the children from the
country without court permission while custody is being
adjudicated. To attain such court permission, a battered
immigrant must be able to guarantee to the court that she
will return to the U.S. by a fixed date. Providing such a
date is impossible, though, since a battered immigrant will
not be able to predict how long it will take to obtain her
green card abroad. If she misses a U.S. court date for a
pending custody matter, she may risk losing custody of her
kidnapping the children
immigrants are concerned that if they leave their children
in the U.S. with a trusted relative, their abusers will
either petition the courts for custody of the children or
attempt to kidnap the children. Conversely, battered
immigrants are also concerned that if they bring their
children with them to their countries of origin, their
batterers will follow them there, kidnap the children from
them, and take the children back to the U.S. or to another
and loss of familial support
battered immigrants will face severe social stigma if forced
to return to their countries of origin after divorcing or
separating from their husbands.(45)
are often deterred from reporting domestic violence in the
U.S. or leaving their abusers because they fear that their
families and communities in their countries of origin will
condemn them for exposing their husbands' abuse and breaking
up the traditional family unit.(46)
norms and social constructions of gender roles in the
immigrants' home countries will also penalize the returning
immigrant who has dared to leave her abusive husband.(47)
VAWA self-petitioners forced to
to their home countries to obtain their green cards may not
be able to access help and support from their families and
communities in their home countries during the time they
must remain abroad. They may be ostracized because they
publicly exposed their husbands' abuse.
of physical and mental health care abroad for battered
immigrants or their children
of domestic violence and their children often suffer from
physical and mental health problems as a result of the
problems include depression, low self-esteem, post-traumatic
stress disorder, and long-term physical injuries caused by
battered immigrant or her children receive treatment from
mental health professionals in the U.S., discontinuing
treatment for the weeks or months needed to obtain a green
card abroad could cause tremendous emotional damage for
women and children struggling to rebuild their lives.
for some battered immigrants or their children, travel
abroad for any period of time would disrupt treatments they
are receiving in the U.S. for physical ailments. Often,
these immigrants will be unable to find an adequate level of
affordable health care treatment in their countries of
origin. The issue becomes even more complicated when a
battered immigrant's child has a physical ailment that
requires treatment in the U.S. If the battered immigrant is
the sole caretaker of the child, and the immigrant is forced
to take the child with her when seeking her green card,
discontinuing the child's medical treatment may result in
life-threatening consequences for the child.
socio-political conditions abroad
to the battered immigrant's country of origin could also, in
some cases, subject her to political persecution, war,
torture, jail, extreme poverty, disease, entrenched gender
discrimination, or death.(49)
of Consular Processing for VAWA Self-petitions
officers abroad have not received the training they need to
enter proper decisions regarding VAWA self-petitioners'
qualifications for lawful permanent residency. Untrained
consular officials may choose to re-open and re-evaluate
approved VAWA self-petitions. Allowing consular officials
who do not appreciate the particular problems that battered
immigrants face to overturn decisions made by INS
adjudicators with expertise in domestic violence poses grave
dangers to battered immigrants.
INS has followed the lead of other justice system
professionals who work on issues of domestic violence. Many
courts, police departments, and prosecutors' offices have
created specialized units with trained staff to handle
domestic violence cases.(50)
INS has adopted this integrated approach, as demonstrated by its training of INS officials assigned to
adjudicate VAWA self-petitions.(51)
centralized the collection and adjudication of VAWA
self-petitions so that all VAWA cases would be handled by a
group of specially trained immigration adjudicators at the
INS Vermont Service Center. This group of officers has been
made aware of the particular evidentiary burdens that
victims of domestic violence face, and they have developed
expertise in adjudicating these cases.
danger to battered immigrants lies in allowing consular
officers abroad to determine whether or not battered
immigrants will receive their green cards. Within the U.S.,
both administrative agency and judicial review is afforded
to all immigrants whose petitions are denied approval by the
INS. By contrast, no judicial review is available to
immigrants for decisions made by consular officers at
embassies and consulates abroad. Even though a battered
immigrant has left the U.S. with an approved VAWA petition
in hand, a consular officer abroad could determine that the
battered immigrant's personal affidavit was not believable
or that the petition did not contain sufficient evidence to
meet the required burdens of proof. Since the domestic
violence that the approved VAWA self-petition was based upon
must have occurred in the U.S., and any evidence to support
the self-petition also must have remained in the U.S., a
battered immigrant would be unable to gather whatever
additional evidence might be needed to convince the consular
official to grant her lawful permanent residency status
based on her self-petition. The consular officer could deny
the battered immigrant a green card and trap her in her
country of origin without a way to legally re-enter the U.S.
No review of the consular officer's decision would be
proposed legislation would allow battered self-petitioners
to adjust status through §245(a) and (c) of the INA, which
is the same mechanism under which spouses, parents, and
children of U.S. citizens who entered the U.S. lawfully may
adjust their status. This legislation would not create new
rights for immigrants who have entered unlawfully; rather,
it would restore a previously existing option to a narrow
group of people who, in good faith, married citizens or
lawful permanent residents only to suffer domestic violence
at their loved-ones hands. With the proposed legislation,
battered self-petitioners would be allowed to adjust their
status pursuant to §245(a) and (c) without leaving the
country and without paying a fine, regardless of whether
they overstayed their visas or worked without authorization.
case summaries in this compilation describe the experiences
of ____ battered immigrant women in 41 states and the
District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The
information contained in these case summaries was provided
by domestic violence agencies, domestic violence shelters,
immigration attorneys, and battered immigrants from across
the country. All case summaries were compiled from one or
more of the following sources: 1) affidavits prepared by
battered immigrants and their attorneys; 2) case files and
notes recorded by social workers and domestic violence
advocates at agencies and shelters; and 3) telephone
interviews with battered immigrants self-petitioning under
VAWA. The cases compiled here constitute only a fraction of
the total number of VAWA cases in which battered immigrants
will face hardships and dangers because of the sunsetting of
section 245(i) of the INA.
names have been changed to protect the identities of those
involved in these incidents.
were submitted by a variety of organizations, including the
Border City Project
Friends Service Committee
Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California
Cornelia Law Center
American Resource Center
Chen, Attorney at Law
York, New York
de Latinos Unidos, Inc.
Migrant and Refugee Services, Inc.
Violence Intervention Program
Immigrant Advocacy Center
Boston Legal Services
Initiatives, CUNY School of Law
Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Aid of Central Texas
Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
Assistance Foundation of Chicago
Services of North Carolina, Inc.
Women's Center, Inc.
Loio Immigrant Rights and Public Interest Legal Center
York, New York
Immigrant Rights Project
York, New York
for Families, Inc.
York, New York
Arizona Legal Aid
and Immigrants Aid
complete list of organizations is not provided in order to
protect the anonymity of the victims.
ORIGIN OF SPOUSE NUMBER
Afghanistan LPR 1
El Salvador USC 3
Guatemala USC 5
Haiti USC 7
Dominican Republic LPR 8
Dominican Republic LPR 9
Trinidad LPR 10
Mexico LPR 11
Canada USC 13
Jamaica LPR 14
Pakistan LPR 15
Mexico USC 16
Mexico USC 18
Mexico LPR 20
Mexico LPR 22
Mexico LPR 24
Mexico LPR 27
Mexico USC 30
Mexico USC 34
Mexico USC 36
Mexico LPR 38
Mexico USC 107
Mexico USC 153
Mexico LPR 205
Mexico LPR 40
Mexico USC 42
Mexico LPR 44
Mexico LPR 46
Jamaica LPR 48
Mexico LPR 49
Mexico LPR 51
Mexico LPR 53
Mexico LPR 99
Mexico LPR 201
Mexico LPR 55
Bangladesh LPR 57
Mexico LPR 59
Romania LPR 61
Philippines LPR 63
Peru LPR 64
Mexico LPR 65
Thailand LPR 67
Mexico LPR 69
Mexico LPR 71
Mexico USC 73
El Salvador USC 75
Mexico LPR 24
Mexico USC 30
Mexico LPR 46
Mexico USC 94
Mexico USC 101
Mexico USC 141
Mexico LPR 163
Guatemala USC 180
Nigeria USC 76
Mexico LPR 79
Mexico LPR 81
Mexico USC 83
Mexico USC 84
Mexico USC 86
Mexico USC 30
Lesotho LPR 88
Mexico LPR 90
Mexico LPR 92
Mexico USC 94
Mexico LPR 96
Nigeria LPR 97
Mexico LPR 99
Mexico USC 101
El Salvador USC 75
Mexico USC 141
Honduras USC 103
Costa Rica LPR 105
Mexico USC 107
Poland LPR 110
Guyana LPR 112
Trinidad and Tobago LPR 114
Ethiopia LPR 116
Mexico LPR 118
Mexico USC 120
Lithuania USC 122
Columbia USC 124
Ghana USC 125
Mexico LPR 118
Mauritania USC 127
Mexico LPR 128
Guatemala LPR 130
Mexico LPR 132
Peru LPR 134
Kenya LPR 136
Peru USC 137
Mexico USC 139
Luisa Mexico USC 140
Mexico USC 141
Mexico LPR 143
Mexico LPR 96
Mexico LPR 145
Mexico LPR 147
Mexico USC 149
Mexico LPR 151
Mexico USC 153
Mexico USC 94
Mexico LPR 155
Thailand USC 157
Mexico LPR 159
Mexico USC 36
Trinidad LPR 161
Mexico LPR 163
El Salvador LPR 166
El Salvador USC 168
Argentina LPR 170
Mexico LPR 172
El Salvador LPR 174
Mexico LPR 176
El Salvador LPR 178
Guatemala USC 180
El Salvador LPR 182
Mexico LPR 184
Mexico USC 186
Mexico USC 187
Mexico LPR 189
Mexico LPR 191
Israel LPR 192
East Africa LPR 194
Mexico LPR 195
Haiti USC 197
Honduras USC 199
Mexico LPR 201
Mexico LPR 203
Mexico LPR 205
Venezuela USC 207
Mexico USC 209
Hungary USC 210
Thailand USC 211
Panama USC 213
Egypt LPR 214
Micronesia USC 216
Mexico USC 217
case originated in New York.
is a 33-year-old citizen of Afghanistan. She met her
husband, Ahmed, in Afghanistan. Ahmed is a lawful permanent
resident of the United States.
circumstances under which the couple met and married are
disturbing. While in Afghanistan, Ahmed began stalking
Aminata. He would stop her in the street and tell her that
she was to be his and no one else's. He later threatened to
kill her if she did not marry him. Aminata was very afraid
of his stalking and his threats, but she had no one to turn
to for protection. She lived with her elderly parents who
could not help her, and the police force offered little to
no protection, due to the civil strife in Afghanistan at the
time. She was afraid, but she felt she had no choice but to
the first week of their marriage and every week thereafter,
Ahmed slapped Aminata. Initially, she sought refuge with her
parents, but they forced her to return to her husband and
"do her duty" as a wife. Ahmed frequently slapped,
punched, pushed, and threatened to kill Aminata. This abuse
only intensified after the couple moved to the United States
and settled in New York.
one of Aminata's pregnancies, Ahmed grabbed a kitchen knife
and tried to cut open her stomach and remove the baby from
her womb. Aminata defended herself and her baby as best she
could from Ahmed's attack. Her hands were cut and bruised.
On another occasion, Ahmed put a knife against Aminata's
chest and cut her hand when she tried to protect herself. He
also threatened to kill her by running her over with his
car. He began abusing their daughters, as well, often
pulling their hair and hitting them.
this incident, Aminata received a restraining order against
Ahmed. She further sought to protect her daughters from
Ahmed by getting a court order limiting Ahmed's visitation
of the girls to supervised visits only.
the course of her marriage, Aminata has suffered constant
physical and verbal abuse from Ahmed. Even though he was
excluded from the family home pursuant to the restraining
order, Ahmed has continued to threaten and harass Aminata.
She has struggled to survive without his income, supporting
her girls with meager assistance from her family and other
agencies. Her husband does not pay child support even though
he is self-employed.
has filed her VAWA self-petition for residency status, which
has been approved. If she is forced to leave the United
States to get her green card in Afghanistan, she believes
that Ahmed will follow her there and kill her. In
Afghanistan, Ahmed is fully able to do anything he wishes to
Aminata because she is his wife. He knows exactly where she
would stay in Afghanistan, and he is aware that the police
force and laws of Afghanistan would not hold him accountable
for any violence committed against Aminata or the children.
He is watching her very closely in the United States, and he
would know when she left the country with the children.
Aminata's restraining order would not keep her safe in
Afghanistan from Ahmed's abuse.
case originated in New York.
is originally from El Salvador. She met Christopher, a
United States citizen, at a dance club where he was working
as a disc jockey. They started dating and quickly fell in
love. Later, they moved in together. They married in New
York three years later.
began controlling Lupe's movements from the beginning of
their relationship. He would call her every five minutes
when she was at home, just to check up on her. When she got
pregnant with their first child, he purchased a cellular
phone so he could call her even more frequently. He told her
that she did not need anyone but him and the baby. A few
months into her pregnancy, though, Lupe discovered that
Christopher was having an affair with another woman. She
left him and went to her parents' house.
began stalking Lupe at her parents' home, parking his car
directly across the street and calling out "I love
you!" whenever she would leave the house. One day, she
was standing outside the house with her mother and brother
when Christopher came barreling into the driveway in his
car, ordering Lupe to "get in." When she refused,
he got out of the car and dragged her by the hair into the
passenger's seat. Her pregnant belly got stuck between the
seats, and Lupe could not move. Lupe's brother got a
baseball bat and hit the back windshield of the car as
Lupe's mother tried to pull Lupe out of the car. Christopher
threw Lupe's mother to the sidewalk and sped off with Lupe
in the car. He drove her to his apartment and locked her
inside with him, telling her that if she did not come back
to him, he would do something drastic. He told her it was
all her fault that he did these crazy things. He kept
repeating that he loved her and begged her not to leave him.
The he pulled the phone off the wall and laid down next to
her in bed. He convinced her to stay.
other occasions, Christopher would force Lupe to perform
sexual acts against her will. Three weeks after giving
birth, the baby was sleeping next to Lupe in the bed when
Christopher came into the room and began to undress Lupe.
She told him that the doctor had strongly recommended no
sexual activity for at least one month. Christopher became
angry and called her nasty names. Then he pushed her onto
her knees and demanded that she give him oral sex. When she
said "no," he pinned her against the wall and
screamed at her to do it now. She had no choice but to
follow his orders. Then he had sex with her against her
will, even though she told him that he was hurting her.
that year, Christopher began complaining that Lupe was
spending too much time with the baby. One day, he forced her
into the car and made her drop the baby off at her mother's
house. Then he took her back to their house and pushed her
around the bedroom, ripping off her clothes and calling her
a whore and a slut. The he pulled his pants off as Lupe
screamed and tried to reach for the phone. He told her to
act like the whore she was and have sex with him like one.
She was so afraid that she held still as he raped her again
and again. When he was done, he acted as though nothing had
happened and treated her as if she had enjoyed it. From then
on, the sexual abuse was more frequent. When he would come
home for lunch he would order her to put the baby to nap so
that they could have sex. Every time he wanted rough sex and
oral sex, Lupe would feel sick. Christopher would respond by
pushing her, smacking her, pulling her hair, and telling her
that she would never see the baby again unless she did what
abused the baby, as well. He would lock him in the closet to
punish him for crying. He would also crush the baby's
favorite toys with his foot. Lupe discovered Christopher's
abuse of her son and immediately left Christopher, fleeing
to her parents' house. Christopher came to her parents'
house and stalked her for a week, calling her and parking
his car outside the house. When she finally agreed to talk
with him, he forced her into his car and drove away at a
high speed, swerving all over the road and telling her that
they were both going to die that day. He said that if he
could not have her, no one would. She was so frightened that
she told him that she would return to him.
got a restraining order against Christopher after he
abducted her from the local gym and drove her to a lake,
where he threatened to drown her. Lupe talked to him and
calmed him down for hours before he finally agreed to take
her back to the gym, where she called the police. She later
consulted an attorney and filed a VAWA self-petition for her
Lupe is forced to return to El Salvador to get her green
card, she will face severe hardships. First of all, her
restraining order is unenforceable in El Salvador.
Additionally, Lupe fled the war in El Salvador along with
all her family when she was only five years old and has
horrible memories of gunfire, hiding, and running for cover
in El Salvador. She has not been to El Salvador since she
fled many years ago, and she no longer speaks Spanish or
knows any contacts in El Salvador. Finally, the expense of
the trip would be a significant financial burden to a young,
single mother of two young sons. She is trying to rebuild
her life and support her babies entirely on her own, with no
help from Christopher. Forcing Lupe to return to El Salvador
would be a nightmare of confusion and emotional trauma for a
woman who has already suffered so much in her life.
case originated in New York.
was born in Guatemala. She met her husband, Jeffrey, in New
York in 1987. Jeffrey was the owner of the apartment
building where Sol lived when she first arrived in New York.
He is a United States citizen.
and Jeffrey started living together shortly after they met.
They married almost six years later. While they were living
together, Jeffrey revealed to Sol that he was addicted to
cocaine and that he was trying his best to quit. Sol tried
to be supportive of Jeffrey, but she soon discovered that he
was still partying with friends and taking drugs without
attempting to quit. Knowing that her husband was a drug
addict upset Sol and created tension in their relationship.
began abusing her shortly after their first child, Maggie,
was born. He would push Sol forcefully when he would get
angry. He would also grab and shake her violently. He
threatened to throw her out of the apartment and leave her
homeless. Only 15 days after Maggie was born, Sol became so
afraid of Jeffrey that she attempted to leave him and move
in with her brother. Before she could leave, Jeffrey told
her that unless she stayed with him he would hurt her
brother. Fearing for her brother's life and not knowing the
extent of Jeffrey's capacity for violence, Sol stayed with
him and abandoned her plans to flee.
another occasion, after Jeffrey held Sol by the arms and
shook her repeatedly, Sol feared for her and her daughter's
life and fled to her local church. There, the pastor called
the police and helped her enter a women's shelter. She
remained there for the next year. Towards the end of that
year, Jeffrey sought out Sol's brother and demanded he tell
him where Sol was living. When Sol's brother refused to tell
him, Jeffrey beat him up and rummaged through his house. He
found a phone bill and from there traced one of the phone
numbers to the shelter where Sol was staying. He arrived at
the shelter and demanded that Sol return to him, or else he
would kill her whole family. Believing his threats, Sol felt
she had no choice but to move back in with him. Immediately
afterward, Jeffrey began pressuring Sol to have a second
child and refused to allow Sol to use birth control.
second child, Anthony, was born needing a liver transplant.
Money was tight in the household at that time, and one day
Jeffrey flew into a rage over how much money Sol had spent
for household supplies. He started to throw things around
the apartment, kicking and hitting the furniture and walls.
He also threatened to kill Sol's mother. At that moment, Sol
decided that she would risk everything to escape this man's
violence. She left the apartment with the children and filed
for a restraining order, which is still in effect and which
granted her sole custody of the children to protect them
from Jeffrey's violence.
Sol left Jeffrey, he has continued to stalk her, harassing
and threatening to kill her and her family. He has also sent
her threatening letters and a videotape of him filming the
place where Sol and the children were now living. The police
are trying to arrest Jeffrey for violation of the
restraining order, but so far, he has managed to evade them.
Sol believes he is capable of the greatest
violence--including killing her and her family and kidnaping
Sol is forced to return to Mexico to get her green card
under VAWA, she fears that Jeffrey will follow her there and
abuse her. She knows that he is currently stalking her and
the children and that he follows her movements closely in
the U.S. The restraining order she has against him is the
only thing that is keeping her safe from Jeffrey's violence.
Outside of the U.S., her restraining order would not be
addition, if forced to leave the U.S. to get her green card,
Sol would have to take her children with her for an unknown
period of time while the consulate processes her visa. Sol's
U.S. citizen son, Anthony, would face life-threatening
health problems if he went with his mother to Mexico to get
her green card. He requires ongoing treatment and dialysis
for his liver problems, and he depends on Sol as his primary
caretaker. He cannot interrupt his medical treatment for a
trip with his mother to Mexico. There is no one that Sol can
risk leaving the children with in her absence. Any caretaker
would be subject to violent attacks while caring for the
children and may not be able to protect the children from
case originated in New York.
was born in Haiti. She has lived in the United States for
the past three years. While she was living in Haiti, she met
Pierre, a United States citizen also originally from Haiti.
Pierre had been visiting his mother near Gabrielle's
hometown. In time, Pierre and Gabrielle started dating and
soon fell in love. Pierre later brought Gabrielle with him
to the U.S. and married her in New York.
after the marriage took place, Gabrielle noticed a change in
Pierre. He isolated her in a small town where she had
neither friends nor family. Gabrielle felt depressed and
lonely and longed to make American friends, but Pierre never
allowed her to leave the house without him. He even pinned
down the curtains and told her that she "had no
business looking outside." He refused to let her go to
school or learn to speak English because he wanted her to be
entirely dependent upon him. Pierre would inform Gabrielle
that she was only good for cooking, cleaning, and having sex
with him. He even proposed bringing women to the house to
have sex with both Gabrielle and himself. This proposition
day, after a long period of severe emotional abuse and
isolation, Gabrielle finally disobeyed Pierre's orders and
left the house to take a walk by herself. When she returned
home after the walk, she found that Pierre had called the
police and had told them that she was taking drugs.
Gabrielle did not understand English, so she could not
answer the police officer's questions. After a translator
was called, Gabrielle explained to the police how Pierre had
been abusing her during their marriage. The police took
Gabrielle to a battered women's shelter.
later served divorce papers on Gabrielle and threatened to
have her deported. He told her that since he was an American
citizen, he could do whatever he wanted to her, and nothing
would happen to him. Gabrielle went to an attorney and
received a restraining order against Pierre and assistance
in applying for her green card under VAWA. Pierre was
furious at Gabrielle's actions. He immediately made a trip
to Haiti and visited Gabrielle's parents, her adult
daughter, and her former place of employment, spreading lies
about Gabrielle and threatening to kill her if she ever set
foot in Haiti again. He also threatened to hurt Gabrielle's
parents and daughter if Gabrielle ever came back to Haiti.
He knew full well that Gabrielle's restraining order would
not protect her outside the United States.
family and friends in Haiti have called and written to her
to warn her of Pierre's plan to kill her or have her killed
if she ever returns to Haiti. Gabrielle is very afraid of
Pierre and believes she will be in serious danger if she
returns to Haiti to get her green card under VAWA. Gabrielle
feels that Haiti is an insecure place where Pierre could
easily kidnap, hurt, or kill her without police
intervention. She has no doubt that once she sets foot in
Haiti, Pierre will be waiting for her.
case originated in New York.
is a citizen of the Dominican Republic. She has lived in the
United States for the past four years. After her arrival in
the United States, Raquel met and fell in love with Gerardo,
a lawful permanent resident of the United States originally
from the Dominican Republic. After a period of courtship,
Raquel and Gerardo were married. Raquel had no idea at the
time of her marriage that Gerardo was an abusive man.
after their marriage, Raquel noticed a change in Gerardo's
behavior. He began to be very controlling and domineering
with Raquel. He also started criticizing the way she talked
and acted. He would insult her verbally, telling her
"you're not good enough," and calling her an unfit
wife. When their son, Pablo, was born, Gerardo began
criticizing Raquel's skills as a mother. He was never
satisfied with anything Raquel did, and soon his verbal
abuse made Raquel depressed, afraid, and severely lacking in
abuse of Raquel escalated drastically over time. He began
calling Raquel at work, threatening and harassing her.
During one call, he threatened to burn down their home.
Finally, in April of 1998, Gerardo beat Raquel severely all
over her body. Bruised and fearful for her and her son's
safety, Raquel went to the police and reported the beating.
She received a permanent restraining order against Gerardo,
in which Gerardo was ordered to leave the family home.
Shortly after this incident, Raquel consulted a lawyer who
began helping her self-petition for permanent residency
Raquel is forced to return to the Dominican Republic as the
only way she can get her green card under VAWA, her U.S.
citizen son will suffer serious, perhaps life-threatening,
health risks. Raquel's son, Pablo, was born with severe
atorec dermatitis, a rare disease which makes him sensitive
to weather changes and puts his life in jeopardy if he is
exposed to sunlight. Pablo has been receiving ongoing
medical treatment for this disease, and he requires close
care and monitoring. Treatment for Pablo's disease is
unavailable in the Dominican Republic. In fact, doctors from
the leading medical centers in the Dominican Republic have
reported to Raquel's attorney that there are no reported
cases of Pablo's disease in the Dominican Republic and that
the Dominican Republic is unprepared to treat such a disease
as Pablo's. Sending Raquel and Pablo back to the Dominican
Republic to obtain Raquel's green card could be a death
sentence for young Pablo.
case originated in New York.
long-term boyfriend, Francisco, brought Belinda and their
child to the United States from the Dominican Republic.
Belinda and the child entered illegally. Francisco is a
lawful permanent resident of the United States. After
several years of living together both in the Dominican
Republic and the United States, Belinda and Francisco were
married in New York. Later, they had a second child here in
the United States.
year after Belinda entered the U.S., Francisco began to
physically abuse her. He would punch and slap her
repeatedly, and when she would attempt to call the police,
he would threaten to report her to the INS. He was very
controlling and would monitor her movements and her phone
calls. She was not allowed to leave the house, make friends,
or associate with anyone without Francisco's permission.
physical and emotional abuse was so severe that Belinda
separated from Francisco and fled the family home with her
two children. She sought refuge with Francisco's sister and
began living with her. One day, Francisco arrived at his
sister's house and demanded to see Belinda. When she came
out, he began beating her face and body with his fists and
pulling her hair. She managed to escape his grasp, open the
door, and run out into the street. To her horror, Francisco
followed her to the street and attacked her with a machete.
The attack only ended when police arrived on the scene and
arrested Francisco for domestic assault and battery. Belinda
was hospitalized with the severe injuries that Francisco
inflicted upon her. Later, she obtained a protective order
state filed criminal charges against Francisco for
assaulting Belinda. The criminal case is still pending.
Francisco is filled with rage and blames Belinda for getting
him arrested and charged with this crime. He has vowed to
follow her to the ends of the earth to exact his revenge
upon her. Belinda believes his threats and is afraid that
Francisco will hurt or kill her if he ever comes in contact
with her again.
Belinda is forced to return to the Dominican Republic as the
only way to obtain her green card under VAWA, she fears that
Francisco will follow her and hurt her. His family knows
Belinda, and Belinda is certain that Francisco could find
her easily in the Dominican Republic. Belinda's restraining
order would not keep her safe from Francisco's abuse outside
the United States. In addition, making the trip to the
Dominican Republic to get her green card would be a
devastating financial hardship to Belinda. She and her two
children are living in a shelter for battered women and
children, and she does not have the resources to finance a
trip now or in the near future. Her protection order awards
Belinda custody of their two small children. She has no one
in the United States on whom she can rely to take care of
her children while she is in the Dominican Republic. All of
these hardships would make it dangerous impossible for
Belinda to return to the Dominican Republic to get her green
case originated in New York.
was born in Trinidad. She came to the United States along
with other family members. While Violeta was living in New
York, she met Kurt, a lawful permanent resident of the U.S.
originally from Trinidad. Kurt and Violeta fell in love and
were married in 1997. Shortly after their marriage, Kurt
began mistreating Violeta.
had an uncontrollable temper. He would savagely beat Violeta
for no particular reason. The beatings were frequent and
unpredictable. He would punch her, scratch her, and kick her
repeatedly during these attacks. He constantly threatened to
kill her by throwing her out of the window. Violeta
sincerely believed these threats. She knew that it was only
a matter of time before Kurt snapped and beat her to death.
He had already begun beating her in front of others,
including Violeta's mother.
brutal physical abuse of Violeta caused her to miscarry
their child in the second month of pregnancy. At that time,
Kurt was unemployed, and Violeta's income from her own job
was the only means of support for the couple. Despite this,
Kurt called Violeta's boss to try to get her fired. It was
then that Violeta decided she could not stand to be with
Kurt any longer. Even though she feared what he would do if
she left him, Violeta gathered her courage and moved in with
her mother. She applied for and received a restraining order
against Kurt and applied for legal immigration status under
Violeta's attempts to sever her relationship with Kurt, he
has continued to stalk her ever since she moved out of their
house. He calls her on the telephone 10-12 times every
night. Violeta is so frightened of Kurt that she goes
everywhere with an escort and always has either her mother
or a friend in the house with her at all times. Her body is
covered with scars and bruises left from Kurt's abuse. She
is now undergoing counseling and psychiatric treatment for
the trauma she experienced living with Kurt.
Violeta must return to Trinidad as the only way of getting
her green card under VAWA, she will face possible injury and
death at the hands of Kurt. Since her restraining order will
not be valid in Trinidad, she will have no way to protect
herself from Kurt, who has maintained his contacts in
Trinidad. He has already vowed to kill her in the U.S., and
he continues to stalk her to this day. Violeta does not
doubt that he would follow her to Trinidad, a place where
she would be alone and unprotected. Violeta has no friends
or family to rely upon for support and protection in
Trinidad, and she cannot even imagine walking the streets
alone, either in the U.S. or in Trinidad. She lives in a
constant state of terror and is in such terrible physical
and emotional shape that she cannot endure a trip to
Trinidad. To Violeta, the only place where she stands a
chance at protecting herself from Kurt is here in the United
States. If she is forced to return to Trinidad for any
period of time to obtain her lawful permanent residency
under VAWA, she knows she will be a target for violence.
case originated in New York.
is originally from Mexico. She first entered the United
States when she was fifteen years old. Her parents
disapproved of her leaving Mexico to live with her aunt in
the U.S. at such a young age. Consequently, Pilar's family
and community in Mexico cut all ties with her.
Pilar was sixteen, she met and fell in love with Roberto, a
twenty-year-old lawful permanent resident of the United
States who was originally from Nicaragua. Pilar moved in
with Roberto and became pregnant with their child when Pilar
was seventeen. Roberto forced Pilar to have an abortion,
even though this decision was against Pilar's religious and
moral beliefs. Since Pilar was under age at the time of the
abortion, Roberto posed as her brother and signed all the
consent papers for the procedure. Pilar still carries severe
emotional scars as a result of this forced abortion.
the next three years of their relationship, Roberto
physically and emotionally abused Pilar. He would punch,
slap, and kick her when she displeased or
"disobeyed" him. He refused to let her out of the
house and isolated her from friends and family. During the
day, Roberto kept an eye on Pilar by getting her a
waitressing job at the same restaurant at which he worked.
He would exercise complete control over Pilar's every
movement, often threatening to have her deported if she did
not obey his commands.
Pilar was twenty, she again became pregnant with Roberto's
child. Roberto married her at that time. Soon after this, he
tried to make her have another abortion, but Pilar refused.
In response, Roberto beat Pilar severely during all nine
months of her pregnancy, regularly punching her in the
stomach so that she would miscarry the child. At the end of
nine months, when Pilar went into labor, Roberto refused to
take her to the hospital, and instead told her to "call
a cab." After their baby was born, Roberto did not pick
Pilar and the baby up from the hospital, and Pilar was
forced to take a bus home.
a month after the baby was born, Roberto attacked Pilar for
the last time. He began beating her even though she was
holding the baby in her arms. He attacked her with such
force that she dropped the baby. Although the baby was not
hurt in the fall, the incident made Pilar fear for her
baby's safety. She found the strength to pack her things, go
to the police, and enter a shelter for battered women and
children. She left Roberto that day. Since then, she has
sought counsel to assist her in obtaining her green card via
a VAWA self-petition.
has lived in the United States since she was a young girl.
If she is required to return to Mexico as the only way to
get her green card under VAWA, Pilar will face extreme
hardship. She has no family in the U.S. with whom she may
leave her U.S. citizen child while she is getting her green
card. In Mexico, Pilar no longer has ties to her family, who
disowned her when she left for the United States, nor does
she have any ties with her hometown community. Her parents
refuse to see her and do not communicate with her. She and
her baby would be shunned if they returned to Mexico, and no
one would help and support Pilar there. Because of the years
of abuse that Pilar has suffered in her relationship with
Roberto, she now lacks the emotional strength to confront
her family. After all she has suffered, she must not be
forced to leave the United States to obtain her green card.
case originated in New York.
is originally from Canada. Her mother, an alcoholic named
Mary, and her father, a violent, abusive man named John,
mistreated Lilly both physically and emotionally when she
was a little girl. They would belittle her, call her names,
and beat her severely whenever they perceived she had
misbehaved. Lilly suffered such tremendous emotional scars
from the abuse and neglect of her parents that she was
placed in Child Protective Services by the Canadian
authorities. Lilly was released to her uncle's care in the
United States, and she entered the country without
inspection in 1990.
later married a U.S. citizen named Stuart. Unfortunately for
Lilly, Stuart was also a controlling, violent man who abused
her just as her parents had. Stuart would insult her and
damage her self-esteem, and he would punch, slap, and kick
her when angry. After years of abuse and terror, Lilly
finally escaped to a shelter with her two children, Greg and
Katie. After consulting with a lawyer, Lilly filed her
paperwork for a VAWA self-petition, and it was approved.
two children are U.S. citizens, and they are both involved
in the community and enrolled in school. Lilly would not be
able leave them behind if she were forced to return to
Canada to get her green card under VAWA. Furthermore, she is
unable to afford the trip to Canada at all, considering that
she is currently living with her children in a battered
women's shelter. Assuming she did go back to Canada, though,
Lilly would face painful memories from her childhood and
severe emotional trauma.
has no other friends or family in Canada aside from her
abusive parents. She and her children would have no one else
to rely on for help and support while in Canada. The
prospect of seeing her parents again fills Lilly with fear.
Her contact with them has been very limited, but they still
try to control and emotionally abuse her to this day. Her
mother has even threatened to call the police and the INS to
have Lilly deported to Canada. Considering her parents'
emotionally controlling nature, Lilly cannot fathom
returning to Canada and facing the painful memories from her
childhood after the abuse she has recently suffered at the
hands of her husband.
case originated in New York.
is a citizen of Jamaica who entered the United States in
1991 with a visitor's visa. In 1992, Johanna's landlord
introduced her to Irving, a citizen of Jamaica who had
gained permanent residency through his mother. The two dated
and lived together for several years, and had two American
citizen daughters. They finally married in 1997.
constantly suffered physical and emotional abuse throughout
the course of their relationship. Irving was extremely
possessive and controlling, preventing Johanna even from
picking out her own clothes to wear. Both Johanna and her
neighbors reported several incidents of abuse to the police.
Johanna required medical attention for her injuries after
several brutal incidents. It was not uncommon for Irving to
punch Johanna in the face and slap her. Specific incidents
of abuse include shaking her violently while she was
pregnant with their daughter, slapping her while she was
holding their child in her arms, and hitting her in the head
with a ceramic mug.
worst incident of abuse Johanna suffered was in June of
1997, when Irving invited his mother to move in with the
couple and their children. Johanna told Irving this was not
a good idea because the apartment was already very crowded.
Enraged, Irving punched her in the ears, grabbed her, and
pushed her up against the wall and then down onto the floor.
Johanna's ears were seriously injured from this abuse and
rang for two weeks after this incident.
after this episode, Johanna escaped the home with her two
daughters and moved to a shelter for battered women. Irving
never filed a spousal petition for Johanna's green card, and
Johanna has now filed a self-petition. However, she is
afraid to return to Jamaica to receive her green card.
Irving knows he could abuse her there without legal
consequences and would likely follow her there to do so. In
addition, she cannot afford to take her children to Jamaica
for an indeterminate length of time, but has no one with
whom to leave them. Johanna has no support system left in
Jamaica to aid and protect her while she is there. It is
necessary that Johanna be allowed to remain in the United
States to become a lawful permanent resident in order to
protect her safety.
case originated in New York.
is a citizen of Pakistan who entered the United States on a
student visa in 1981. She met her future husband, Rashid, in
1985. The couple dated for many years, and eventually
married in September of 1997. Rashid, a citizen of Pakistan
and a lawful permanent resident, refused to file a spousal
petition for Sima.
became both physically and emotionally abusive to Sima
immediately after they were married. He would often tell her
she was no longer attractive, and that he no longer wanted
her. On one occasion, he shouted curses at her and spit
toothpaste on her several times. Rashid first hit Sima in
the face in November of 1997. Having sustained extensive
bruising, she went to the police after this incident.
Subsequently, physical violence such as hitting, pushing,
and slapping took place about once a month, and verbal abuse
took place almost every day. During one incident, Rashid
slapped Sima and pulled her by the hair. Sima called the
police, which only further enraged Rashid. He exacted
revenge by threatening Sima's friends and family and
spreading malicious lies about her in their close-knit
December of 1997, Sima's husband started forbidding her to
answer the phone, and denied that they were married to many
of the couple's friends and acquaintances. Rashid would also
constantly threaten to have Sima deported. Throughout the
marriage, women would call the couple's home and harass Sima
by telling her that they were Rashid's lovers.
October of 1998, Sima came home to their marital residence
to find the locks had been changed. She later found that
Rashid had put half of her possessions in storage and the
rest in garbage bags. After a warrant for her husband's
arrest was issued due to the history of domestic violence
culminating in the illegal lockout, Rashid wrote letters to
Sima's family in Pakistan threatening to have Sima and her
family members killed. Rashid then served Sima with divorce
is currently staying with friends while awaiting space so
she can move into a shelter for battered women. She has
filed a self-petition for residency, but she is frightened
to return to Pakistan for visa issuance. She has no doubt
that if she returns home Rashid will follow through with his
threats to kill her and her family. Once she leaves the
United States, Sima will no longer be protected by the
American criminal justice system that has, for now, brought
a halt to the physical violence if not the threats. Sima
will face grave danger in her tumultuous home country where
husbands have full legal right to control and abuse their
wives. Since Rashid is also a Pakistani citizen and
maintains contacts in Pakistan, he knows this and will be
able to carry out his threats. Sima must be allowed to
remain safe within the boundaries of the United States, and
not be required to return to Pakistan in order to become a
lawful permanent resident.
case originated in Texas.
is originally from Mexico. She moved to Texas in 1988, after
both her parents died in Mexico. She met Jed, a United
States citizen, in 1995 through a mutual friend. She and Jed
began dating, and eventually they moved in together in El
Paso. A few months after they moved in together, Carmela
found out that Jed had a drinking problem. He was arrested
for causing an accident while driving under the influence,
and when he was released from jail, he begged Carmela to
help him quit drinking. Carmela thought he was a good person
and was in love with him, so she told him she would try to
help. They were married in 1996, when Jed became sober.
Carmela believed that he would not drink again.
first month of their marriage was happy; however, soon after
that, Jed began coming home drunk. When Carmela confronted
him about his drinking, he screamed at her and insulted her.
His verbal abuse of Carmela grew more frequent over time.
Jed would yell at Carmela, call her a prostitute, throw her
clothes all over the floor, and kick her out of the house
when he would get angry at her. He began disappearing every
weekend, leaving Carmela alone and without transportation.
She began to suspect that he was having affairs with other
this time, Carmela was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She
had a very difficult time getting Jed to take her to the
doctor, and he refused to give her money to pay the clinic
fees. He began telling her that he wished she were dead. He
also began sexually abusing her, and on one occasion, he
purposely urinated inside of her while they were having
intercourse. He became more violent, as well. One evening,
he got angry at her while they were at a bar. He smashed two
glasses, insulted her, and drove off without her. By the
time she got home, Jed had destroyed a clock and had ripped
the telephone out of the wall and thrown it across the room.
Carmela was very afraid of his violence.
Carmela had an operation to remove the cancer from her
uterus, Jed did not bring her food while she was
recuperating, and he abused her physically. About a week
after her operation, she asked Jed to bring her some food,
and he became so angry that he pulled her out of bed and
threw her against the sofa. Then he pushed her out the door
and refused to let her back in the house.
separated from him shortly after that incident. First she
went to a shelter, and then she found an apartment of her
own. Jed came to her apartment shortly after she moved in,
asking her to let him inside. When she refused, he broke the
door down and slapped her so hard that her gums bled. Then
he spat in her face and called her a prostitute. Carmela
raced to her bedroom and called the police. Jed was
arrested, and Carmela received a restraining order to
protect her from his abuse. She also obtained counsel to
assist her in filing a VAWA petition for residency.
Carmela will be forced to return to Mexico as the only way
of getting her green card under VAWA. She has lived in the
U.S. for the past ten years, since she was a very young
girl. She has no relatives to help and support her in
Mexico, and making the trip alone would cause her great
emotional stress. In addition, Carmela cannot leave the U.S.
to journey to Mexico because she is receiving ongoing
treatment in Texas for uterine cancer. She pays for her own
treatment, but it is affordable and accessible in the U.S.
In Mexico, similar treatment would be too expensive for
Carmela to afford, and the quality of care would not match
that of the U.S. Because Carmela must aggressively treat her
uterine cancer through intensive therapies, she cannot put
her life at risk by leaving the U.S. and discontinuing her
case originated in Texas.
is originally from Mexico. She met her husband, Tom, a
United States citizen, while she was living in Texas. At the
time, Linda had a four-year-old daughter from a previous
relationship named Jan. When Linda and Tom started dating,
she was pleased to see that he was very thoughtful and
considerate toward her and her daughter. In time, Linda fell
in love with Tom, and she accepted his proposal of marriage.
Linda and Jan moved in with Tom, his behavior began to
change. He controlled Linda's movements and restricted her
phone calls. He made up a schedule of foods that could only
be eaten at certain times and on certain days, and he
refused to buy fruit, saying it was "not food." He
also refused to give Linda money to buy groceries, telling
her that she did not know how to shop properly. He enjoyed
making her cry and insulting her in public, using foul
language and calling her names like "dummy,"
"garbage," and "bitch." After only a few
months of marriage, Linda became depressed and lacking in
self-esteem. She felt powerless in her marriage and was very
upset when Tom told her that he was "the king" and
that she must "always obey him."
also suffered sexual abuse at her husband's hands. He would
hurt her when they were having sex, pulling her hair and
forcing her to perform acts that she did not want to
perform. He would get angry if she refused to perform these
acts, and then he would rape her with much force and
violence. This sexual abuse continued while Linda was
pregnant with their child. He raped her several times in the
few weeks before the baby was born, causing her great pain
and concern for her unborn baby's health.
was drinking alcohol and getting drunk every day, which only
made him more violent. On one occasion after their daughter,
Jodie, was born, he refused to buy milk for the baby and
told Linda that she should give her water instead. When
Linda protested, he told her that she should become a
prostitute if she wanted to make money of her own. He then
demanded that she have sex with him, although she had given
birth only a few days before. When she declined, he forced
himself upon her, hurting her because she had not yet healed
from the child's birth. On another occasion, he got angry
and hit the bathroom wall with his fist, making a hole in
the wall. His growing violence frightened Linda, and she
considered leaving him.
separated from him after an incident in March of 1998. He
had told little Jan to tie her tennis shoes, and when she
was slow to react, he pulled her by the legs and dropped her
on the floor. Linda told him not to treat her that way, and
in response, Tom grabbed Linda and pinned her arms to the
door. Linda told her daughter to call the police, but Tom
pushed Jan out of the way and pulled the phone cord from the
wall. Once Tom let Linda go, she raced upstairs to baby
Jodie's room and attempted to pick her up from the crib. Tom
followed her and shoved her against the crib, then he yanked
the baby blanket out of Linda's hands, almost causing her to
drop the baby. He put his face close to Linda's and shouted
that he was the one to give the orders in their house. Just
then, the police arrived and arrested Tom. Linda obtained a
restraining order against him, and the court ordered him to
vacate the family home immediately.
then, Linda has filed a VAWA self-petition for residency.
She remains extremely afraid that Tom will return to her
home and try to abuse her or kill her. He is very angry at
her for having left him, getting a restraining order and
calling the police. Considering Tom's violent, unpredictable
nature, Linda must rely exclusively on her restraining order
to keep her and her children safe from Tom.
Tom is a U.S. citizen, he can cross borders easily, and he
is familiar with where Linda's family lives in Mexico. If
Linda were forced to return to Mexico to get her green card
under VAWA, she believes Tom would follow her there and try
to hurt or kill her. Linda knows that in Mexico her
restraining order would not protect her, and the Mexican
police would not stop Tom from abusing her. She is also
fearful that Tom would try to kidnap her daughters while she
was in Mexico. Because Tom has threatened to take Linda's
daughters from her in the past, she believes he will act on
these threats. In order for Linda and her children to be
safe, she cannot return to Mexico to get her green card.
case originated in Texas.
is a citizen of Mexico. She met Báltazar, a lawful
permanent resident of the United States, while she was in
Mexico. They dated for a short while, and Báltazar proposed
to her. Estrella is deaf-mute, and at the time that she
married Báltazar, she was only 18 years old. Nevertheless,
her parents approved of the marriage, and Estrella also
believed that Báltazar loved her and would be good to her.
The couple immediately moved to Texas, where most of Báltazar's
and Báltazar moved in with his mother and sisters. At
first, all went well in the marriage, but little by little,
problems arose. Báltazar would leave Estrella alone with
his family for days at a time, and no one would speak or
sign to her during those days. She felt very isolated. When
her husband would come home, he would argue with her and
become frustrated with her inability to hear or talk. He
would shout at her and shake her violently, then he would
slap and punch her. His family knew that he was abusing her,
but they did nothing to stop him.
other occasions, Báltazar would abuse Estrella outside,
where the neighbors could see. He would push her and slap
her repeatedly across the face until a neighbor would step
in and calm him down. Because Estrella was deaf and unable
to use the telephone, she could not call the police, nor
could she rely on Báltazar's family to help her. Her own
family lived far away in Mexico and could not protect her.
gave birth to three daughters during her marriage to Báltazar.
He continued to either ignore her completely or physically
abuse her at every opportunity. On top of that, he ordered
Estrella to give the babies to his mother and sisters to
raise, since he thought she would not be a good mother.
After all of her children's births, Estrella was kept from
having too much contact with her them, despite her protests.
Her mother-in-law refused to let her feed them or play with
them except on rare occasions. Also, Estrella was not
permitted to leave the house, even to buy groceries. Báltazar's
family used the fact that they kept the children from her to
qualify to receive government assistance, food stamps, and
evening, Báltazar came home and told Estrella that he had a
girlfriend in Mexico whom he wanted to marry. He told
Estrella that he did not love her anymore, and that he
wanted her to leave his home and go back to Mexico. If she
refused to leave, he would call the police and the INS and
have her deported. Finally, he informed her that when she
was deported, he would keep all three of the children and
let his mother raise them. Estrella was horrified. She
pleaded with Báltazar to reconsider, but he just got angry
and started beating her. Their three girls watched as Báltazar
punched their mother repeatedly in the stomach with his
closed fists. Then he kicked her with all his strength,
grabbed her by the neck, and told her he wanted her to die.
He dragged her by her hair to their bed and smothered her
face with a pillow until she passed out from lack of oxygen.
After he left the house, one of the children ran to a
neighbor's house to get help. The neighbor called Estrella's
one took Estrella to the hospital for treatment of her
injuries, even though she was vomiting blood. Eventually,
Estrella's mother contacted Báltazar's family and came to
Texas when she learned that Báltazar had beaten her
daughter. It was Estrella's mother who called the police
after seeing the extent of her daughter's injuries. Estrella
had been vomiting blood from the internal stomach injuries,
was yellow in color, and had difficulty walking. The police
arrived and helped Estrella obtain a restraining order and
get help at a battered women's shelter. The judge in the
restraining order case found that Báltazar had abused
Estrella and that he and his family had also harmed their
oldest daughter. The protection order Estrella custody of
the children. Since leaving Báltazar, Estrella has also
sought assistance in filing a VAWA self-petition for
Estrella is forced to return to Mexico as the only way of
getting her green card under VAWA, Báltazar would go to
court as soon as she left to get custody of their three
children, telling the judge that she had abandoned them. she
could lose custody of her three children. Even before
Estrella left Báltazar, he had been trying to have her
deported so that he could marry his new girlfriend. It was
his plan to take custody of Estrella's three girls and get
rid of Estrella--either by having her deported or by beating
her to death. Now Estrella faces a bitter custody battle for
the three children. She does not want them to grow up with Báltazar
or his family, since they all have mistreated her and would
likely mistreat her children. Estrella is a good mother to
her children and believes that only she can protect them.
cannot afford to make the trip to Mexico because she is
currently living in a shelter and does not have the funds to
pay for the trip. Even if she were able to travel to Mexico,
she would not be able to leave her children with Báltazar's
family without risking losing custody of the children to
them. Leaving the U.S. for any period of time would increase
her chances of losing custody, since she would miss
important court dates while she was out of the country.
Therefore, in order to keep her children safe from her
husband's violence, she must be allowed to obtain her green
card in the U.S.
case originated in Texas.
was born in Mexico. Her boyfriend, César, lived in the same
small Mexican town. When Dolores and César were both 16
years old, they got married. A little while after their
marriage, César found work in the United States, and he
eventually became a lawful permanent resident of the U.S.
Dolores was happy in her marriage to César until their
first child was born. It was at that time that César began
their baby was only eight days old, Dolores came home from
work one evening and found her husband smoking marijuana and
drinking. She said nothing to him and went straight to bed.
He came into the bedroom and started yelling at her, then he
slapped and kicked her and pulled her hair. Next, he
demanded that she give him his gun, which she had previously
hidden from him. She refused and ran to hide behind some
furniture. She did not call the Mexican police because they
were located two hours from her house, and she knew that
they would not help a woman who was being abused by her
husband. Dolores knew that the police would not help because
she had witnessed her own father beating her mother when
Dolores was a little girl. When the police had been called,
they never did anything to stop the abuse.
left the following day for the U.S., where he had been
working for the past several months. He moved Dolores and
the baby to Texas that same year, and the abuse began again.
One evening, he locked her in their bedroom and started to
hit her repeatedly on her head and body until she was
knocked unconscious. Dolores' mother, who was staying with
them at the time, got Dolores' son to call the police and
ambulance. On another occasion, César smacked Dolores
repeatedly across the face as punishment for not going to
work when she was sick. He never needed an excuse to beat
left César several times, but each time she would return to
him out of fear. He often threatened to kill her if she left
him. When she finally separated from him permanently, the
separation followed a horrifying incident involving her
young daughter, Amy. One morning, little Amy woke up with a
fever, so Dolores decided not to send her to school for the
day. Later that same afternoon, Dolores had to leave for
work, and she left Amy in her father's care. Two or three
days later, Dolores noticed that Amy was very sad. She asked
Amy what was wrong, but she did not get an answer. The
school called to tell Dolores that Amy was very upset and
was scheduled to speak to a counselor. Dolores later
discovered that Amy told the counselor that César had done
something very bad to her. That same day, Amy confessed to
Dolores that her father had sexually molested her, and that
he had told her that if she told anyone about it, he would
kill her mother.
was sick with the news that César had sexually abused their
daughter. She called Child Protective Services, and they
conducted an investigation. Now César is serving time in
jail for pleading guilty to the charge of indecency with a
minor. Dolores moved out of the house with her children and
sought counseling for herself and her daughter. She also
filed a VAWA self-petition for residency.
Dolores is forced to return to Mexico as the only way of
getting her green card, she and her children would face many
hardships. She has no family in the U.S., so she would have
to remove her two children from school and take them with
her to Mexico. Her daughter is currently receiving
counseling to help her cope with the trauma of being
sexually abused by her father. Stopping this counseling
would be detrimental to the little girl's mental health. In
addition, Dolores is afraid that César would hurt or kill
her and the children while in Mexico. Dolores and César are
from the same town, so he would know if she were staying in
Mexico with her family. Since he will be released from jail
on probation and possibly deported back to Mexico for his
crime, he will be in a position to find Dolores in Mexico
and take revenge on her for reporting him to the police.
Dolores knows that she cannot be safe from his abuse in
case originated in Texas, moved to California, and is
currently in Texas.
is 39 years old. She is originally from Mexico, where she
studied theology and worked in a church. She met her
husband, Beto, a lawful permanent resident of the United
States, while he was visiting family and friends in Mexico
near Victoria's home. The two became friends and began
dating. After an eight-month courtship, Victoria and Beto
were married in Texas. Victoria was in love with Beto and
was very happy about beginning a new life with him in Texas.
couple moved in with Beto's mother, and had their first
child in 1987. The next year, Beto's mother died. After
this, Beto began physically abusing Victoria. At the time of
the first incident of abuse, Victoria was eight months
pregnant with their second child. That day, Victoria had
discovered she was not eligible for assistance from WIC
because she was missing a document from Beto. When she told
Beto this, he began to hit her. He proceeded to kick her in
the stomach, pull her hair, and slap her. Beto then kicked
Victoria out of the house, and she had no choice but to
return to Mexico to stay with her mother. After a few weeks,
Beto followed Victoria to Mexico and insisted she return to
Texas with him. She was about to give birth, and felt she
had no choice. She had the baby in Texas that night.
serious incident of abuse occurred in 1990, shortly after
the birth of their third son. Beto was injured and told
Victoria to clean up his wound. She did, but it was not to
his liking. He became angry with Victoria and started
hitting her. Then their infant began to cry, and Victoria
went to pick him up. Beto tried to hit her again, but missed
and hit the baby in the lip instead. Victoria and the two
children entered a shelter, and the police arrested Beto.
Once Beto was in jail, Victoria felt it was safe to return
to the house. However, Beto's sister bailed him out of jail
and he immediately returned home. Enraged, he ripped out the
heating and air conditioning units and then reported
Victoria to INS. But Victoria was not deported, and she
decided to divorce Beto to get away from his abuse.
1991, Victoria and the children moved to California because
one of her sons had serious heart problems and needed a
heart transplant. Beto came to visit and reconciled with
Victoria. During his visit, the couple conceived another
child. After her son's operation, Victoria took the children
back to Texas and moved into an apartment. Beto visited
often and put pressure on Victoria to abort her baby since
it was conceived out of wedlock. Victoria insisted upon
having the baby, and he was born in 1992. This child also
had heart problems. In 1993, Victoria had to move with the
children to a different city in Texas to obtain a heart
transplant for her youngest son.
1994, Victoria decided to remarry Beto. She thought he had
changed, and needed his support in raising the children. A
few months later, they had a fifth son together. A week
after this, their fourth son died of cancer due to his heart
medication. This was an extremely difficult time for
Victoria, but she forced herself to keep going for her four
other children. Beto only worsened things for Victoria by
abusing her verbally, often in front of the children. He
accused her of sleeping with other men and lied to her to
make her angry. When his anger escalated, he would pull her
hair, throw things at her, and throw her against the wall.
Beto also often forced Victoria out of the house without any
money or clothes.
beatings continued as well. Beto often beat her in places
where her bruises could not be seen by others, so as to hide
the fact of his abuse. On one occasion, however, Beto beat
Victoria so brutally that she had a severe cut under her
left eye and her blood pressure dropped dramatically. Yet
Beto refused to take Victoria to the hospital, and ripped
out the phone cord so she could not call the police.
increasingly treated Victoria as a slave. He would become
livid if his dinner was not ready when he arrived home, or
if it was cold. He also forced Victoria to have sex with
him. If she refused, he would get angry and call her names
or beat her. Beto made Victoria do virtually everything for
him, and became enraged when she stopped attending to him to
help the children. He would not let her watch television or
sleep late, leaving Victoria little personal freedom. The
telephone was also restricted from Victoria, preventing her
to keep in touch with her family. Victoria's and Beto's
oldest son began treating Victoria as his father did,
demeaning her and ordering her around. When Victoria tied to
punish the son, Beto would beat her. Beto also beat the
children when they did not obey him. The spankings would
become beatings, and Victoria would intervene to protect the
children, and be further beaten herself.
last incident of abuse occurred when Victoria complemented
their pastor on his new suit. A jealous Beto became furious
and beat Victoria brutally. She wanted to call the police,
but they were in a hotel room and did not have access to a
phone. That night, Beto made Victoria sleep on the floor and
would not even give her a blanket. The next day, Victoria
decided she had suffered enough abuse, and called the police
to take her and her children to a shelter. She then obtained
a restraining order, began learning English, and filed a
VAWA self-petition for residency. Victoria and her children
are receiving counseling to help them overcome the effects
of the violence.
requires that Victoria return to Mexico to obtain her green
card based on her VAWA self-petition. If she is forced to
return, Victoria will face the fear and danger of being
stalked by her abusive husband in Mexico. Beto has already
followed Victoria to Mexico once before. He knows exactly
where she would be staying in Mexico while getting her green
card, and he would take advantage of the fact that her
restraining order would not be valid in Mexico and would
offer her no protection from his abusive attacks. Further
interrupting ongoing therapy sessions for Victoria and
especially for her boys when they travel to Mexico would
have severe consequences.
addition, Victoria would be unable to return to Mexico to
get her green card because it would put her child at serous
medical risk. Her six-year-old son Bobby has a heart
condition which is life-threatening and requires constant,
specialized medical attention. If Victoria is forced to go
to Mexico to get her green card, she would have to take
Bobby and her other four children with her, since she has no
family or friends in the U.S. whom she trusts to care for
her children, and who can keep the children safe from Beto's
violence. Taking Bobby with her to Mexico may worsen the
child's heart condition and put him at risk of illness and
death, according to doctors. Mexico does not have the
facilities, specialized medical care, and resources to
adequately treat Bobby's heart condition. Consequently,
Victoria must be allowed to remain in the United States to
get her green card. Forcing her to return to Mexico will put
her and her children at risk of abuse at the hands of her
husband, and discontinuing her son's medical care in the
U.S. will jeopardize his health.
case originated in Texas.
is a 37-year-old woman from Mexico. She met her husband
Manrique in Mexico, and they got married in 1982. The couple
had three children together while living in Mexico. In 1992,
the family moved to the United States when Manrique became a
lawful permanent resident. However, he never petitioned for
the residency of his family.
marriage to Manrique was plagued from the outset. Manrique
began verbally and physically abusing Lisa shortly after
their wedding. Sometimes he would abuse her every day for a
week, and sometimes he would go for weeks without abusing
her. Manrique's unpredictable nature caused Lisa to live in
constant fear. She had to go to a clinic in Mexico three
times because of the severe beatings and mental cruelty
inflicted upon her. She developed symptoms of anxiety and
mental distress and had to take medication to calm her
incident of abuse occurred when their oldest child was ill.
Lisa was quite concerned and knew the child needed medical
attention. However, Manrique refused to take their daughter
to the doctor. He instead began to scream at Lisa, blaming
her for the illness of the child. He then began to beat
Lisa. When he delivered a hard blow to her face, it knocked
her unconscious. She also suffered a large cut on her eye as
when the beatings became especially severe, Lisa tried to go
to the Mexican police for help. However, she discovered that
no one would take her seriously. She said that they refused
to prosecute her claim because she could not provide them
with a large sum of money. Domestic violence reports are
ignored in Mexico, because it is socially accepted for men
to beat women. Lisa's mother-in-law had no sympathy for
Lisa, telling her that real women can take the abuse.
the family moved to Texas in 1992, the beatings continued.
Manrique also started beating the children. However, he knew
he could be punished for abuse more easily in this country.
He began hitting his family in less obvious places and in
ways that would not leave a mark. For example, he would hit
their son in the back and drag Lisa across the floor by her
would not let Lisa talk to anyone or have any friends. He
said they would only put ideas in her head. If anyone
visited the house, he would yell and throw them out. He
wanted absolute control over Lisa's life, and was able to
use her residency status as a way to control her. He
threatened never to file papers for her if she did not do as
he said, or if she did not forgive him for abusing her.
Manrique also refused to support his family. He worked, but
said that whatever money he made was his to keep. There was
never any money for food or clothing, and the children did
not even have shoes. Lisa tried to make some money by
selling cold drinks and sewing. Sometimes Manrique would
forcefully take what little money Lisa made. He said she was
responsible for paying for his expenses. As far as the
children were concerned, Manrique insisted that they should
get jobs to support themselves. Of course, they were much
too young to work.
the spring of 1998, Manrique again beat Lisa, causing her
nose and lip to bleed. However, she was too afraid to call
the police. A few weeks later, Manrique again abused Lisa.
He saw her on the street near their house, forced her into
the car, and started beating her. Lisa jumped out of the car
and ran into a restaurant, where the police were called.
Manrique was arrested and served a few days in jail.
had always been unfaithful to Lisa throughout their
marriage, but his infidelities have recently become more
flagrant. On one occasion, he and a girlfriend tried to take
the children with them to Chicago so that Lisa could not
find them. Another time, he brought a different girlfriend
home with him. This one was pregnant with his baby. Manrique
tried to make Lisa lick this woman's dirty shoes, telling
Lisa she had to because his girlfriend was a "real
grew most concerned about the welfare of her children.
Manrique was cruel to them, especially their son. He beat
and screamed at his son frequently. Lisa has tried to shield
her children with her body to protect them from getting
hurt. One day, when the entire family was in the car,
Manrique kept swerving off the road threatening to kill them
all. The children were terrified and begged him to stop.
Lisa is quite worried about the way Manrique has affected
the children. They are all afraid of their father, and the
boy suffers from some behavioral and learning problems as a
result of the abuse he has suffered at home. The two girls
are also afraid and angry and often act out. They feel
powerless to stop the violence. The eight-year-old was so
scared that she asked her teacher to help them find
counseling. The older of the two daughters is afraid of men.
ultimately decided to free herself and her children from
Manrique's torment and abuse, and they have entered a
shelter. She has filed a self-petition for residency under
VAWA, but is terrified of returning to Mexico for consular
processing. Lisa believes that Manrique "would
definitely come and find us and seek retribution against us
for leaving him." He has already located the shelter
and gone there to harass Lisa, and could easily travel to
Mexico to find her.
recently as January 1, 1998, Manrique traveled to Mexico to
threaten Lisa's parents. He said that once Lisa returned to
Mexico, she would never receive her immigration papers, and
he would take the children away from them forever. As Lisa
has discovered previously, Mexican law enforcement will not
protect her against Manrique's abuse. She also fears
Manrique's parents in Mexico, who are abusive as well. She
refuses to take the children into this dangerous situation,
but has no one with whom she can safely leave them behind.
Additionally, Lisa cannot afford a journey for four to
Mexico, and does not want to uproot her children from school
and therapy for a period of weeks or months. Lisa and her
children would have no help or support in Mexico, and would
be isolated and endangered. It is therefore imperative that
Lisa be permitted to remain in the United States to receive
her green card, and not be required to return to Mexico for
case originated in Texas, moved to Arizona and California,
and is currently in Texas.
is a 33-year-old citizen of Mexico. She moved to the United
States in 1985, living briefly in Texas, and then moving to
Arizona. In Arizona, Doris worked as an aide to the elderly.
There she met Nelson, an American citizen who lived nearby.
Doris and Nelson met in 1988, dated for two months, and then
moved in together when Doris became pregnant. She did not
realize until a year later that Nelson was already married.
Nelson finally obtained a divorce in 1992. Although Doris
and Nelson were together for many years, they did not marry
until 1997. Together they have three children, a
nine-year-old son, an eight-year-old son, and a
four years in Arizona, Doris and Nelson moved to California
for a six months, and then settled in Texas in 1992. The
relationship was plagued with abuse from the beginning.
Nelson verbally abuses Doris every day, beginning as soon as
he awakes in the morning. He curses at her and calls her
obscene names, telling her she is better off dead than alive
because she is worthless. Nelson says that because he is a
citizen and Doris is not, he can do whatever he wants with
her. He makes these remarks in front of the children, and
often directs such remarks to them. Nelson's actions are
also extremely cruel. When Doris was pregnant with their
youngest child, she became violently sick one night. She was
on the floor of their bedroom, doubled over in pain, begging
for Nelson to help her and to call an ambulance. Nelson
simply ignored her. Eventually, the apartment manager heard
Doris's cries and called an ambulance. Doris was
hospitalized for three days, but not once did Nelson visit
her or even acknowledge she was ill.
has subjected Doris to constant physical and emotional abuse
for the past eight years. The first time Nelson abused Doris
was in 1990, during her pregnancy with their youngest child.
Nelson came home and told Doris that the house was not clean
enough, and proceeded to hit her in the head with his fists.
On another occasion, Nelson lashed out at Doris because she
had taken the car to buy groceries. He had forbidden her
from driving, saying she was too stupid, but the children
needed food. When she came back from the store, Nelson was
waiting for her. He grabbed her by the hair and pulled her
out of the car. She landed on the ground, and Nelson got in
the car and tried to run her over. This was Nelson's first
attempt to run her over with a car. Again, in 1998, Nelson
pushed Doris out of their moving truck in front of the
children, saying he did not love Doris or the children
enough to give them money to eat. Nelson also frequently
grabs Doris by the shoulders, shaking and pushing her, pulls
her hair, kicks her in the legs, and hits her in the head.
often takes Doris's personal belongings and throws them away
or hides them. For example, Nelson did not like the fact
that Doris went to church on Sundays. To prevent her from
going, he took away her only pair of nice shoes, knowing she
would be uncomfortable going to church in tennis shoes.
Another time, Doris had borrowed some books from a friend,
but Nelson disapproved of her reading. He found the books
and threw them at her when she arrived home one day.
Nelson was working, he would make Doris perform humiliating
acts in order to receive money from him to buy food and
clothes for the children. He would make her get down on her
knees to put his shoes on for him, and to take them off when
he arrived home. Once when the couple was in a restaurant,
he demanded that Doris tie his shoes for him in front of
everyone. Doris had no choice but to get down on the floor
and do this for him, and she recalls it as one of the most
embarrassing moments of her life.
would also demand sexual acts from Doris, especially acts
with which she was uncomfortable. Doris preferred to sleep
with the children, but Nelson would frequently drag her into
his room and demand that she perform all types of sexual
acts. Doris would cry and fight him off, but Nelson said
that it was her duty as his wife, and that it was the only
way he would give her money for the children. Sometimes he
would take the children's food stamp card away from Doris,
only giving it back in exchange for sex. Once when Doris was
taking a bath, Nelson broke the lock on the bathroom door
and raped her. Since that time, Doris has had no choice but
to give in to Nelson's sexual demands, because he constantly
threatens to kill her if she does not do what he says. He
tells her that he will break her neck and put her in the
dumpster where no one will find her. On one occasion Nelson
put a knife to her throat and told her that if she divorces
him, he will send her back to Mexico in a coffin. Doris has
no doubt that Nelson's threats are in earnest. He once told
her that he beat his ex-girlfriend so badly that she was in
the hospital for several weeks.
early 1994, an especially violent incident prompted Doris to
enter a shelter. Nelson came home and saw that Doris and the
children were eating dinner. Nelson was furious, saying he
should be the first to eat. Doris tried to explain to him
that it would be better to eat after the children finished,
when it would be quieter. He then became enraged, and began
to punch and kick the walls. He overturned the table,
sending dishes and food all over the kitchen. A piece of
glass ricocheted off the floor and became lodged in one of
the children's legs. Then Nelson left, and came home drunk
much later. He tried to force Doris to have sex with him,
but she was able to fight him off. The next morning, Doris
took the children and entered a shelter.
and the children eventually returned home to Nelson, because
Nelson was working at the time. Doris could not support
herself and the children on her own and she saw no other
options. Although Nelson was a U.S. citizen, he never filed
papers for Doris to obtain lawful permanent residency and a
work permit, and he threatened to take the children from
her. On this occasion and others when she sought to leave
him, Nelson threatened to turn her in to INS.
November of 1994, another violent incident caused Doris to
return to a shelter. Nelson had been drinking at home and
ran out of beer. He asked Doris where she had put the money
he had given her earlier. Doris explained that she needed
the money to pay bills and buy food, but he did not care.
Doris gave him half the money, hoping he would believe that
was all there was, and he left to buy beer. He returned home
to drink the beer, and then left for a bar. He then returned
home again looking for the rest of the money. Doris and the
children were eating lunch when he stormed home, tore off
the door to the closet, and threw its contents all over the
floor. Nelson then took Doris's purse and emptied it on the
floor. He grabbed Doris by the hair and punched her in the
face, giving her a black eye and bloody lips. Next he picked
Doris up by the shirt and dragged her into the backyard,
where he kicked her in the ribs with his boots on. Three
days later, Doris took the children and again entered a
shelter. While there, she became extremely ill and was taken
to the hospital twice, but she was not properly treated
because she lacked insurance. Nelson began to call the
shelter and threaten its staff, saying he would burn the
entire building down. The shelter asked Doris to leave
because of Nelson's threats, and offered to move her to a
shelter in another community. But Doris felt she had to
return to Nelson at this point, for the safety of those
helping her was compromised, and Nelson promised her things
would be different.
nothing changed between the two. Doris had begun counseling
through the shelter, but Nelson forced her to stop going. In
1996, Nelson woke Doris up in the middle of the night and
pulled her by the hair into the living room. He started to
argue with her, and then threw an iron at her. Doris put her
hands up to prevent the iron from hitting her face. Her
fingers were injured and badly bleeding. She ran out of the
house and someone called the police, but Nelson begged Doris
not to press charges. He said it would ruin his chances for
a job, which Doris knew he needed to support the family. He
spent less than 24 hours in jail.
in 1996 or 1997, Nelson began working only intermittently.
In 1997, Doris began working as a housekeeper. One day, she
was outside hanging clothes up to dry when Nelson demanded
money to buy beer. When she told Nelson they needed the
money to buy groceries, he picked up a brick and threw it at
her. After this, Doris again entered a shelter and again
felt compelled to return to Nelson after a few weeks.
promised to change, and they moved to a different city so he
could get a job. Once they arrived, they moved into a
homeless shelter because Nelson was not working. Nelson
refused to do his chores at the shelter, and verbally and
physically abused Doris and others at the shelter. When he
did work, he spent all his money on alcohol. He was asked to
leave, but Doris joined up with him again when he found a
job. However, Nelson lost the job before long, and Doris had
to begin work at a restaurant to have money to buy food and
clothing for the children, and to pay rent.
July of 1998, Doris wanted to see a movie with some friends.
Nelson refused to let her go, threatening her with a wire
hanger in front of her friends. Later that night, Doris
awoke to find Nelson standing over her bed with the hanger,
telling her he was going to kill her. He put the hanger
around her neck and tried to strangle her. Doris ultimately
fought him off, but he threatened that next time she would
not be so lucky. The next month, Nelson began to argue with
Doris, and kicked her twice in the leg. He told her she had
until 6:00 the next morning to get out of the house, because
he had called INS.
again fled to a shelter, this time filing a self-petition
under VAWA, because she has found a lawyer to help her file.
She also applied for a protective order against Nelson, and
filled out a police report to have Nelson prosecuted for the
incidents with the wire hanger and the knife. Nelson
continues to follow her everywhere, so once again, prior to
receiving her protective order, Doris returned to live with
him for the time. When the protective order was delivered to
their home, Nelson became livid. He yelled at Doris and
kicked her while she was in bed. He then jumped on top of
her and beat her head with his fists. Calling her a
prostitute, he said he was going to buy a gun and kill her.
He said he would put her dead body in the creek behind their
apartment. Their seven-year-old daughter awoke and jumped on
Nelson's back, trying to stop him. Doris put her daughter
back to bed, at which point Nelson began to chase Doris
around the house. When she went into the kitchen, Nelson
broke dishes and glasses in front of her. Doris tried to run
out, but Nelson blocked the door. There was no phone in the
apartment to call for help. He kicked Doris several times,
until she was finally able to lock herself in the bathroom.
He then threatened to shoot Doris and hurt her lawyer,
saying that if he shot Doris nothing would happen to him
because he was a U.S. citizen and she was illegal. The next
morning, as Doris was leaving to take the children to
school, Nelson tried to push her down the concrete stairs to
the sidewalk. Doris again entered the shelter for a few
days, but returned to Nelson out of fear and desperation.
self-petition has been approved and she is now ready to
become a lawful permanent resident, which would empower her
to leave Nelson and his abuses behind. However, because she
did not learn about self-petitioning until 1998, she will
now be required to leave the country to get her green card.
Returning to Mexico for consular processing would pose
severe hardship for Doris and her children. Every time Doris
has tried to leave Nelson, he has stalked her and forced her
to return to him. She will only be able to fully free
herself and her children from his abuses if she can obtain
her green card and work legally. Doris knows that Nelson
would follow her to Mexico so that he could harm her without
legal consequences. Her protective order against him would
not be valid in Mexico, and the Mexican police would be of
no assistance to her. In addition, Doris feels her U.S.
citizen children would suffer hardship if forced to travel
to Mexico for an indeterminate period. Of course, she cannot
leave them safely behind. None of her children speak Spanish
or are familiar with Mexican culture. One child is extremely
developmentally delayed and could not receive proper care in
Mexico. Being uprooted from school and routines would be
detrimental to the fragile emotional states of all of
Doris's children, who have suffered tremendously by being
raised with such abuse. Finally, Doris has no place to stay
in Mexico, and no one there will support her. Her abusive
father does not approve of Doris or her lack of tolerance
for her husband's abuses. Doris's mother has also suffered
years of physical abuse at the hands of Doris's father, who
abused Doris and all of her siblings as well. Her parents
still live together because Mexico had no shelters her
mother could go to, and when called the Mexican authorities
would do nothing to help her. Doris's mother works and her
abusive father is always home. Doris cannot return to that
home with her children where all would fall victim to abuse
by her father. It is essential to the well-being of Doris
and her children that she be allowed to remain in the United
States to become a lawful permanent resident.
case originated in Texas.
is originally from Mexico. She came to the United States in
April of 1996 in order to visit relatives. While in Texas,
she was introduced by her brother-in-law to a U.S. citizen
named Seth. Ina found Seth to be educated, polite, and
always smiling. She started dating him, and eventually they
fell in love. After two months of dating, they became
engaged. Ina suggested they postpone the wedding for a while
so that they could continue getting to know one another.
couple of months later, Ina became pregnant with Seth's
child. After that, Seth's behavior began to change. Even
though he said he wanted to support Ina and the baby, he
stopped visiting Ina and taking her to the doctor for
pre-natal visits. Ina felt very sad and confused at his
sudden lack of attention. She wondered whether he still
wanted to marry her, and he said that he did. On their
wedding day, he showed up at the church two hours late and
drunk. Ina was upset, but she figured he was just nervous
about the wedding.
their marriage, Ina moved in with Seth. She continued to
feel depressed and lonely, since Seth would leave her in the
house all day, and then he would go out with his friends at
night and not return until the following morning. He began
drinking quite heavily, which he had never done while he and
Ina were dating. After weeks of being ignored and abandoned,
Ina finally left the house one afternoon to go shopping with
her sister. While Ina and her sister were at Wal-mart, Ina
saw Seth standing in the aisle and holding hands with
another woman. Ina felt humiliated. She felt a pain in her
stomach that she had never felt before. She went home and
cried all night, suffering from all the emotional abuse that
Seth had put her through. She eventually decided to continue
living despite the pain and humiliation, telling herself
that needed to be strong for her unborn baby.
baby was born premature. Ina tried to reach Seth because he
had told her he wanted to be at the hospital when the baby
was born. When he answered the phone, he said he was busy
and would not come to the hospital until the following day.
This hurt Ina immensely and made her feel depressed. He
eventually visited that very afternoon, but he said that the
only reason he came was because his boss ordered him to
the baby's birth, Seth promised Ina that he would come to
visit their son and would bring clothes, food, and money to
help support the baby. Ina waited for him to come, and
despite his repeated promises, he rarely came to visit the
baby, and he did not provide any support for the baby's
care. When Ina asked him to be more involved in the baby's
life and provide for some of the baby's necessities, Seth
shouted at her and insulted her, calling her
"stupid" and blaming her for everything that had
gone wrong in his life.
last time Seth had contact with Ina was when he served her
with divorce papers and asked her for the baby's social
security number so that he could claim the baby on his own
tax return. Ina felt so abandoned and emotionally and
verbally abused by her husband that she sought help and
counseling at a legal aid clinic for battered women. With
the help of an attorney, she filed a VAWA self-petition for
residency, which was approved.
obtain lawful permanent residency based on her VAWA
self-petition, Ina must return to Mexico. Her U.S. citizen
son is only a year old, and he relies exclusively on Ina for
his care. He frequently becomes ill, due to complications
that arose from his premature birth. If Ina were forced to
return to Mexico to get her green card, she would have to
take her baby with her, and this would jeopardize her son's
health and safety. He cannot get the necessary level of care
in Mexico. Furthermore, his medical care in the U.S. is
covered by Medicare, since he is a U.S. citizen. By
contrast, if he were to require pediatric care while in
Mexico, even in the event of an emergency, this care would
be too expensive for Ina to afford, and he could risk
developing a severe illness or dying. Since Seth has never
paid child support to Ina for his son's upbringing, Ina is
barely able to support her son, let alone find extra money
to pay for the constant medical care her baby would require
in Mexico. For these reasons, Ina must be allowed to stay in
the U.S. to get her green card.
case originated in North Carolina and is currently in Texas.
was born in Mexico. She first came to the United States in
1993, when she visited her relatives in North Carolina using
a visitor's visa. While in North Carolina, she attended a
dance at which she met Larry, a U.S. citizen. Lola returned
to Mexico later that same month, but she and Larry continued
to communicate with one another over the phone and through
letter-writing. She came back to North Carolina to visit him
the following year, and they continued to date long-distance
until December of 1997, when they were married.
came to live with Larry in North Carolina. They did not see
one another for the first seven months of their marriage,
since Larry was in the U.S. Navy on a seven-month tour of
duty. When he returned home, he and Lola began having
disagreements. On one occasion, Lola locked herself in a
room, but Larry kicked the door open and went to the closet,
throwing all of Lola's clothes on the floor in his fury. He
ordered her to give him the $1400 she had earned while
working over the past seven months, saying he needed it to
pay for their church wedding. When Lola told him that she
did not want to marry him in the church, he grabbed a knife
and told her he would kill himself if she did not marry him.
After he cried and begged for the next few hours, Lola
calmed him down and agreed to marry him in the church. They
had a church wedding the next day.
months later, Larry began physically abusing Lola. He began
yelling at her, and when she tried to leave the room, he
pushed her to the floor and dragged her by her arms back
inside the room. He then locked her in the room for hours.
On other occasions, he verbally abused her, insulting her
and telling her that she wasn't good for anything and was
stupid. More abuse followed after Lola started working and
Larry demanded that she hand over to him her paychecks. He
would beat her with his fists until she would beg him to
stop and would hand over her checks. One evening, when he
took her out to get ice cream, he punched her in the nose
after she told him that she was not hungry. Her nose turned
blue and bruised from the blow, and her mouth bled.
considered leaving Larry, but then she became pregnant with
their child and felt that she should try to keep the family
together. Larry continued to hit her during her pregnancy,
usually in the head. A few months into her pregnancy, he
pushed her off the bed, pulled her hair, and kicked her in
the head. He also did humiliating things to her while she
was pregnant, such as push her into the shower when she was
fully clothed and soak her with cold water. When she was a
couple of months away from having the baby, he got angry
with her and pushed her outside into the snow. Another time,
he pushed her into the metal corner of the air conditioning
unit, creating a large, bloody cut on her lower back. She
still bears the scar on her back.
Lola gave birth to their baby, Larry told her he wanted to
take the baby to Texas to introduce him to his parents. Lola
wanted to come along, especially since she was
breast-feeding the baby, but Larry told her to stay home.
She always followed his orders because she feared that he
would hurt her or kill her if she did not. Larry told her
that he and the baby would only be gone for a week, but when
they arrived in Texas, Larry did not call. Finally, Lola got
in contact with Larry's father, and he assured her that the
baby was all right. A week later, Larry convinced her to
move to Texas with him.
Texas, Lola moved in with Larry's parents. Larry continued
to abuse her, refusing to let her leave the house or give
her money to do laundry. He beat Lola on the head with a
sandal one afternoon when the baby was sleeping comfortably
in her lap. On another afternoon, Larry came home from work
as Lola was bathing the baby. He told her that he preferred
that his father bathe the baby and told her to stop. When
Lola insisted on bathing the baby herself, Larry slapped her
and pulled her hair. He picked up the baby and put him in
the next room, then he returned and grabbed Lola by the arms
with such force that they became streaked with bruises. He
pushed her into their bedroom and threw her to the floor. He
kicked her in the left knee, and when she raised her hands
to protect herself, he kicked her hands. When she tried to
leave the room, he told his brother to stand at the door and
prevent her from leaving. She could not get to a phone to
call the police.
gathered her courage and left her husband after she
discovered that he was abusing their baby. First she noticed
her father-in-law hitting the baby when he thought she was
not looking. Next she saw Larry hit the baby twice to try to
make him stop crying. She decided she had to escape before
Larry killed her and the baby. One evening, she told Larry
she was going to the store with the baby. To her surprise,
he let her leave the house alone. She fled to a battered
women's shelter and has been in hiding ever since.
leaving Larry, Lola has filed a VAWA self-petition for
residency. If Lola is forced to return to Mexico as the only
way of getting her green card, she would have no family to
support or help her there. Lola's parents and siblings all
live in the U.S. In addition, she is afraid that Larry would
find her in Mexico and abuse her there. He has family in
Mexico and has visited several times in the past. He would
be able to travel to and from Mexico very easily, since he
is a U.S. citizen. Lola knows that the Mexican police would
not protect her from Larry's abuse, and that without her own
family to protect her, Larry would probably kill her in
addition, Lola is worried that Larry will kidnap their child
while she is in Mexico getting her green card. Lola would
have to leave her baby with her family in the U.S. if she
were forced to return to Mexico. Larry knows where her
family in the U.S. live, and he would not hesitate to hurt
or kill her family members in order to kidnap the baby. For
these reasons, Lola needs to remain in hiding. She cannot
risk placing her family and baby in danger by asking them to
care for her baby while she goes to Mexico. Lola must remain
in the United States to get her green card in order to be
case originated in Texas.
is originally from Mexico. She is college-educated and comes
from an upper-middle class family. At the time that she met
Tobias, a lawful permanent resident of the United States,
Pamela was working as the administrative manager of her
father's company. Tobias was a Mexican police officer,
assigned to the narcotics division of the force. He told
Pamela when they began dating that he was also working for
the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, a story which later proved
to be false. Pamela found Tobias to be a good, hardworking
man, but she was often disturbed by how easily he would
become angry and shout or throw things. She assumed that his
difficult and dangerous job caused him stress and led to
these angry outbursts.
and Pamela were married in Mexico and lived in Mexico City
as husband and wife. While in Mexico, Tobias continued to
lose his temper in front of Pamela, and over time, he began
directing his anger at her. He would throw objects at her,
scream at her, and insult her viciously. At that time,
Tobias also began using marijuana and cocaine in front of
Pamela, and his behavior grew more violent. He ended
arguments by kicking her, punching her, and pulling her
hair. Once he took his gun and placed it on Pamela's temple,
threatening to kill her. After enduring several of Tobias's
attacks, Pamela tried to report Tobias's abuse to the
police. To her dismay, the police told her that they could
do nothing to help her because Tobias was a police officer
little more than a year after their marriage, Tobias
informed Pamela that they were moving to Texas. He told her
that the move was job-related, so she believed him and
agreed to move. She only discovered later that Tobias had
wanted to leave Mexico because he had been fired from the
Mexican police force and was being investigated for his role
in murdering a drug trafficker.
the time Pamela moved to the United States, Tobias's abuse
of her had become a regular occurrence. She contemplated
leaving him, but because of her negative experience with the
unresponsive police force in Mexico, Pamela assumed that the
U.S. police would not protect her either. One evening,
Tobias beat Pamela on her face and body, leaving her bruised
and lying in a heap on the floor. Pamela went to the
hospital to be treated for her injuries, and there she
learned of the services available to battered women in the
U.S. She obtained a restraining order against Tobias and
separated from him, despite the fact that she was pregnant
with her second child and without family in the U.S. to rely
on for support.
her separation, Pamela has been the sole caretaker of both
of her children. Even though she has obtained a court order
which obligates Tobias to pay child support, Tobias has not
paid a penny toward his children's expenses. Without any
financial assistance from Tobias, Pamela has supported
herself and her children on the funds she saved while
working as a professional in Mexico. She is currently
enrolled in a community college in El Paso and is trying to
enhance her academic qualifications so that she may obtain a
professional job in the United States. Both of her children
are enrolled in school and are completely integrated into
has filed a VAWA self-petition for residency, which has been
approved. If she is forced to return to Mexico as the only
way of getting her green card under VAWA, she will suffer
many dangers and hardships. First of all, Pamela has no
family in the U.S. with whom to leave her two children. In
order to make the trip to Mexico, Pamela would have to
remove the children from their courses of study in their
public schools and take them with her to Mexico. This would
jeopardize the children's educational opportunities
dramatically. Second of all, Pamela fears that Tobias will
discover that she is in Mexico and follow her there.
Tobias's family members in Mexico are very supportive of
him, and Pamela fears that they will keep him informed of
her movements and help him track her down. She knows that
Tobias still has friends on the Mexican police force and
that the police would not help her if she reported Tobias's
abuse. Tobias has threatened to kill her in the past, and he
would have the perfect opportunity to do so if she were in
Mexico, away from the protection of her restraining order.
Furthermore, Pamela continues to be afraid that Tobias or
his family will hurt or kill her own family in Mexico, as a
way of seeking revenge on Pamela for reporting Tobias's
abuse. Finally, Pamela believes that Tobias is capable of
kidnaping the children in Mexico, especially if he has his
family and friends on the police force to help him. She
knows that the only way to ensure that she and her children
remain safe is by allowing her to obtain her green card in
case originated in Illinois.
was born in Mexico. While living there, she met Ernesto, who
was working as a security guard in the same department store
as Paulina. Ernesto is a lawful permanent resident of the
United States. Paulina and Ernesto soon began to date and
quickly fell in love. They were married a few months later
after Paulina got pregnant with their first child, Ernesto
began to hit her. He would slap her across the face without
warning, even doing so in front of his mother. On one
occasion, he kidnaped their child for three days, not
telling Paulina where the child was or if she would ever see
her baby again. Eventually Ernesto returned home with the
child, and Paulina began to fear his irrational anger. She
believed him capable of taking her child away from her if
she ever displeased him.
after this incident, Ernesto announced to Paulina that he
was going to look for work in the United States. He left
soon after and did not contact Paulina again for two years.
He never sent her money or inquired after his child. It was
only after two years had passed that he sent for Paulina.
They all moved in together in an apartment in Illinois.
and Ernest had six children throughout the course of their
marriage. Paulina always wanted to use birth control, but
Ernest never allowed her to do so. He would make her have
sex with him against her will, and he told her that having
sex with him was her only useful function. Meanwhile, Ernest
continued his physical and verbal abuse of Paulina. He would
often beat Paulina on her face and body, then he would take
off with the children for several hours. Each time he did
this, Paulina feared she would never see her children again.
Ernest used the threat of kidnaping the children as a way to
make Paulina stay with him. He would also threaten to have
her deported to Mexico so she would be separated from her
violence became worse. He began abusing the children, and he
purchased a gun, which he would wave in Paulina's face as he
threatened to kill her. He would disappear for weeks at a
time, not leaving Paulina money for food or rent.
Eventually, Paulina and the children were evicted from their
apartment, and they sought refuge at a church member's home.
Ernest somehow tracked them down and parked his car outside
the church member's house, waiting. Paulina feared that he
would use his gun to shoot her or the children.
Paulina has received assistance in filing her VAWA petition
for residency. She would be unable to return to Mexico to
get her green card under VAWA because she cannot afford the
trip for herself and her six children. She is supporting all
her children on her own in the U.S., and she cannot leave
them with anyone here. If she somehow managed to take them
all with her to Mexico while she was obtaining her green
card, she would have no one in Mexico to rely on for support
and money during her stay. In addition, she is very afraid
that Ernest's parents will help him kidnap her children
while she is in Mexico. Ernest has threatened on several
occasions to kidnap the children when Paulina "least
expects it," and he has often said that he wants the
children to live with his mother in Mexico. Paulina believes
his threat, especially since he has kidnaped the children
before. For all of these reasons, Paulina cannot return to
Mexico to obtain her green card under VAWA.
case originated in Illinois.
is a 22-year-old Mexican native. She moved with her parents
to Chicago and began work at a restaurant. There, she met
Randall, a United States citizen, and the two started
dating. Three months later, in February of 1997, they were
married. Valerian was 20 years old.
was respectful toward Valerian and treated her well
throughout their courtship, and during the first two months
of their marriage, when they lived with her parents.
However, once the couple got an apartment of their own,
began pestering Valerian to ask her parents for money so
that he could buy a car. He said he wanted a car so that he
could find better work. Randall was concerned about finances
because Valerian was a high school student and could not
work full time. Valerian had missed three years of school
due to a kidney transplant, but had a strong desire to
graduate. She was not comfortable asking her parents for
money, because she knew they did not have any to spare. She
gently declined Randall's requests, but each time this
happened he became more and more angry.
abuse escalated when Valerian and Randall were visiting his
parents. When it was time for dinner, everyone was called
into the dining room to eat except Valerian. Randall went in
to eat, but did not invite Valerian to join them. When
Randall finished eating, Valerian remarked to him that it
was impolite that she was not invited to dine with everyone.
Randall became enraged at this, and began poking Valerian
hard in the face and swearing at her. Valerian slapped
Randall in self-defense, which only increased his anger. He
grabbed her by the neck and pushed her onto the sofa,
choking her. He then started kicking her, and threw her
school bookbag at her. No one in the house attempted to stop
Randall, and Valerian became fearful and ran out of the
house. Randall followed her and chased her down the street.
A woman in a car saw Valerian was in danger and stopped for
her, giving her a ride to the subway.
this incident, Valerian moved back in with her parents, and
Randall moved in with his. Before long, Randall began asking
Valerian for another chance. She finally relented, upon the
condition that he find them their own apartment. She did not
feel comfortable returning to Randall's parents' house.
never found an apartment, but he continued to pursue
Valerian. In July of 1997, he found Valerian and her mother
on the street on their way to the supermarket. Valerian's
mother went into the store, while Valerian and Randall
talked outside in the car. Valerian told Randall she would
prefer that he come to her house to speak with her, rather
than follow her around town. Randall grew angry and said
"you're going to listen to me, bitch," slapping
her hard on the face twice. Valerian got out of the car, but
Randall ran after her. He grabbed her arms and pushed her
against the car, and she fell down. Bystanders witnessed
this take place and came over to help, and the store's
security called the police. Before the police arrived,
Randall became even more violent, holding Valerian back. The
police ordered Randall to let go of her, but he would not.
Three squad cars arrived, and eventually Randall
surrendered. An ambulance then arrived to take Valerian to
was convicted of domestic battery, and Valerian received a
protective order. The protective order has worked and
Valerian has had no recent contact with Randall. She is in
the process of obtaining a divorce. Valerian wishes to
remain in the United States with her family, but cannot
return to Mexico to obtain status as a lawful permanent
resident. First, her order of protection against Randall
would be invalid in Mexico, giving him license to seek
revenge upon her without legal repercussions. Moreover, as a
result of her kidney transplant, Valerian needs consistent
medical treatment for the rest of her life. She would not be
able to receive this in Mexico, and her health would be
gravely endangered even if she were only there temporarily.
There is no indication of how long she would have to remain
in Mexico for consular processing. In addition, all of her
family are in America, and she would have no support system
in Mexico to assist her financially, medically, or
emotionally. Finally, traveling to Mexico for an
indeterminate amount of time would be too great a financial
hardship for Valerian, who would have no means of
sufficiently providing for herself while there. In this
light, it is imperative Valerian be allowed to obtain legal
immigration status without leaving this country and the
security it provides.
case originated in Illinois.
a Mexican citizen, met Luis in Mexico in 1985. They dated,
and were married in February of 1986. They lived in Mexico
and went on to have two children. Shortly after the birth of
their second child, Luis told Julia that he wanted to move
to Chicago, where his parents live. Julia did not want to
move because she had a good job in Mexico. Luis traveled
back and forth between Chicago and Mexico until he finally
persuaded Julia that living in Chicago would be best for the
became a lawful permanent resident of the United States in
August 1995, through his parents. Julia and her daughters
joined Luis in Chicago in 1996. Julia always intended to
return to Mexico eventually, but once she got to Chicago,
Luis said he would not let her leave and take the children.
He threatened to have her deported.
had been trying to separate from Luis since before they
moved to Chicago. He ignored and mistreated his family and
behaved irresponsibly. He was also violent toward Julia
since the beginning of their relationship. Whenever Julia
and Luis got into an argument, Luis would become enraged and
hit Julia. She was afraid of Luis, but wanted to remain in
the relationship because she believed it would benefit the
ultimately separated from Luis in December 1997 when she
could no longer stand his violent physical abuse. She rented
an apartment in Chicago for herself and her daughters.
However, Luis continued to threaten and harass Julia,
constantly appearing at her apartment to say he would take
the children and have her deported. In May of 1998, when
Julia was dropping off the children at Luis's house, he came
out to her car and started arguing with her. Grabbing Julia
out of the car, he punched her in the chest and threw her
down into the street, all in front of the children. After
this incident, Julia received an order of protection against
Luis. She is now pursuing a divorce.
are several reasons why Julia now needs to remain in the
United States, instead of returning to Mexico as she once
planned. First of all, her order of protection against Luis
would not be valid in Mexico, and once she left this country
she would have no way to protect herself against him. Also,
Luis is attempting to receive full custody of their
daughters. Julia needs to stay here for lengthy court
proceedings to ensure her children are not taken from her by
an abusive man. Finally, Julia and her daughters are
currently benefitting from therapy in Chicago, learning
about domestic violence issues and how to break the cycle of
wishes to become a lawful permanent resident, but cannot
return to Mexico to receive this status. Luis could easily
follow her to Mexico, where there would be no consequences
for his abuses. She is afraid to leave the country and the
security of the protective order which has kept Luis away
from her. In addition, Julia cannot afford to take her
children with her to Mexico, nor does she want to take them
away from their schooling and therapy for an indeterminate
amount of time. However, leaving them in the country would
jeopardize their safety. Luis has made it clear that he
wants sole custody of the children, and has taken them from
her before in violation of court orders. If Julia leaves,
she will most likely be detained for a lengthy period for
the processing of her paperwork. In this time, Luis could
claim that Julia has abandoned the children and receive full
custody. Julia needs to be able to receive her lawful
permanent resident status without facing the dangers
involved in returning to Mexico.
case originated in California and is currently in Illinois.
is 35 years old, and is originally from Mexico. She met her
husband Rico in Mexico through friends in 1980, when she was
16. Soon after meeting, they ran off together to live
together, and then got married. Carolina came from an
unhappy home and wished to escape from her parents'
fighting. The couple had two children in Mexico, in 1981 and
1986, Rico decided to go work in the United States until he
had acquired enough money to buy a house in Mexico. Carolina
was bored and lonely after Rico left, and her parents would
not let her work, claiming it inappropriate for a married
woman. She took the children and left for California to live
with Rico in 1988. They lived in California for four years,
both working as migrant farm workers. They had two more
children during this time. In 1991, the family moved to
Chicago so Rico and Carolina could find better jobs.
had received status as a lawful permanent resident in 1990
through an amnesty program for agricultural workers.
Although Carolina also qualified, Rico told her she did not
need to file on her own because he would file a petition to
get the same status for Carolina and their first two
children. However, this never happened.
couple found good work in Chicago; Carolina babysat and Rico
worked in a factory. The couple bought a house and were able
to live comfortably. However, the extra money led Rico to
drink more frequently and excessively. When he came home
drunk he would shout at and insult Carolina, and often he
would hit her. When Carolina threatened to call the police,
Rico said they could not do anything to him because she was
not a legal resident and he was. He believed that because of
this he could abuse Carolina without consequences.
time, Rico's drinking worsened, and the couple fought about
it constantly. Rico always promised to quit drinking, and
this made Carolina stay in the relationship. However, he
March of 1998, Rico came home drunk in the middle of the
night. He unplugged and hid the phones, and then entered the
room where Carolina was sleeping with her daughters. He
began shouting at Carolina, and then pushing her. He punched
her in the arm and in the face. He refused to leave and
continued arguing until he finally passed out. A few days
later, when Carolina found the phones, she reported the
incident to the police and received an order of protection.
Carolina then separated from Rico.
soon came back in violation of the protective order, furious
with Carolina for having him arrested. He again said that
nothing would happen to him because he was a legal resident
and Carolina was not. Carolina called the police again, and
Rico was arrested and convicted of domestic battery.
would be dangerous for Carolina to have to return to Mexico
to obtain status as a lawful permanent resident of the
United States. For now at least, Carolina's protection order
and the criminal case of domestic battery seem to be
offering her and the children some protection from ongoing
abuse. Rico has demonstrated, however, his willingness to
violate those court orders. Carolina fears that if she is
forced to return to Mexico for any period of time to get her
green card, she will be in grave danger. Rico can follow her
there and Mexican law will offer her no protection. Further,
much of the hardship revolves around the safety of the
children. There is no indication of how long Carolina will
be forced to remain in Mexico for consular processing. If
she leaves the children behind when she travels to Mexico,
Rico could claim she has abandoned them and obtain full
custody of them. However, if she takes them, she will be
violating Rico's court-ordered right to see the children
every other weekend. Carolina's children are thriving in
American schools and benefitting from domestic violence
counseling which they would not be able to receive in
Mexico. Carolina must be able to achieve lawful immigration
status without leaving this country to ensure the safety of
her children and her rights to protect them.
case originated in Illinois.
was born in Jamaica, and moved to Chicago in 1980. Her
mother had died at age 36 two years earlier, and Melanie had
no other family left in Jamaica. Shortly after she moved to
Chicago, she met Rodney, a lawful permanent resident also
from Jamaica. Melanie was alone and grieving, and it was
comforting for her to meet someone from her country. After a
year of dating, the couple was married.
worked as a live-in employee, and could only stay with
Rodney on the weekends. However, in 1985, Melanie became
pregnant and had to stop working. In this extra time she had
at home, she began to realize that Rodney was seeing other
women. When she confronted him about this, he became
the baby's due date approached, Rodney spent less and less
time at home. When Melanie went into labor, Rodney was
nowhere to be found. He had not come home the night before
and left no indication of where he was. Melanie had no one
to help her, and was forced to deliver her baby herself at
home in the early morning.
anger and violence only increased during the years following
the birth of their son Ezekiel, and he spent more and more
time away from home with other women. Finally, Melanie
decided that she and her son deserved better, and they went
to stay in a shelter. However, Rodney fought to have Ezekiel
live with him, and Melanie was forced to relent. She still
has weekly contact with her son, and hopes have him live
with her soon. She feels Rodney's affairs and violent temper
make him a poor example for her son.
wishes to become a lawful permanent resident of this country
where she has lived for 18 years. Rodney refused to petition
Melanie during all that time, but now she plans to
self-petition for residency under VAWA. However, returning
to Jamaica for consular processing would present hardship
for Melanie. Rodney could follow her there, where he could
again violently abuse her without consequences from American
law enforcement. Also, leaving the country for an
indeterminate length of time could adversely affect her
custodial rights to Ezekiel. Melanie therefore must be
allowed to remain in the United States to receive her green
case originated in Illinois.
was born in Mexico. She met her husband, Ronaldo, a lawful
permanent resident of the United States at a party in 1991.
They immediately began dating and fell in love. Four months
later they decided to get married, and Celeste moved with
her husband to Chicago.
the first five months things went well. Celeste became
pregnant and soon after things began to change. Ronaldo
seemed to change for no apparent reason and without warning.
He suddenly became unpredictable and controlling. A year
later, Celeste discovered that at this time Ronaldo had
begun having an affair with another woman. He began
screaming at Celeste in front of other people, embarrassing
her and making her feel ashamed. When she tried to discuss
things with Ronaldo he would just tell her that if she
wasn't happy she should leave.
an argument, when she was eight months pregnant, he hit her
for the first time. Celeste ran into another room crying.
Ronaldo came in apologizing and promised to never hurt her
again. Soon after the baby was born, Ronaldo came home drunk
one night and became violent. Celeste was holding the baby
and Ronaldo pushed them both into the wall causing her to
fall with the baby. Ronaldo left them both on the floor
crying. Celeste thought about leaving but was afraid to
because she was not in the country legally and feared for
her son's safety. Ronaldo had promised to file a visa
petition for Celeste when she came to the U.S. but then
refused to unless she paid him a lot of money.
her son was born, Celeste began working in a factory to
support her child. This made her husband angry and jealous.
The insulting and verbal abusing continued, as did the
physical violence. When their son was about a year old, they
went to visit friends. Ronaldo became drunk and began
screaming vulgarities and insults at Celeste in front of
everyone. He then tried to hit her, but one of his friends
grabbed him and stopped him. Another time on the way to her
sister-in-law's house, Celeste asked Ronaldo to go to the
doctor's office because the baby was sick.. He became angry
and began hitting her in the car. She ran out of the car
into her sister-in-laws house with Ronaldo chasing her. Her
sister-in-law put her in a room so that Ronaldo could not
get to her. After that Celeste decided to leave Ronaldo.
With the help of her sister-in-law Ronaldo was persuaded to
move out of the apartment and stay with his brother. While
they were separated , Ronaldo would often call threatening
both physical harm and telling Celeste he would turn her
over to INS and she would loose her son. He would appear
without warning and take their son at times other than what
they had agreed upon.
seven months after the incident at the sister-in-law's
house, Ronaldo began to change. He began attending meetings
at Alcoholics Anonymous regularly and his behavior toward
Celeste improved. He wanted to move back with Celeste. After
four months of improvement and sobriety, Celeste was
convinced that Ronaldo wasn't drinking. She decided to try
again and Ronaldo moved back in. Soon Celeste became
pregnant. As before, once she became pregnant, Ronaldo began
verbally abusing her again. Ronaldo decided to go to Mexico
for a couple of months. While he was gone, their son became
very ill. Celeste called Ronaldo many times asking him to
return to help care for their son. He responded by telling
her to stop bothering him. He ended up staying in Mexico for
five months. Later, Celeste discovered he had been
vacationing with another woman.
Ronaldo returned from Mexico, he was drinking again, and the
abuse continued. When Celeste would try to call the police,
Ronaldo would disconnect the phone. One night, Ronaldo
returned home when Celeste was sleeping, and Ronaldo poured
a can of soda on her to wake her up. Celeste wanted to
leave, but didn't know how to with two small children and
without immigration papers. Several months later, Celeste
learned that the woman Ronaldo had gone to Mexico with was
pregnant. Celeste confronted him with this information and
asked him to leave. He lost control and began beating her.
He punched her in the face and began beating her all over.
Her body was covered with bruises. She left Ronaldo and
moved into an apartment with her two small children.
this incident, Celeste obtained a protective order and
learned that she can call the police if Ronaldo threatens
her or the children. Celeste wants to get a divorce and
demand the child support that she feels her children
deserve. She is afraid she would lose custody of her
American born children if she had to return to Mexico. She
also fears for her safety and their welfare if she were to
return to Mexico for any period of time. Her husband has
threatened to follow her to Mexico and harass her and even
take the children from her because he knows Mexican laws and
authorities will not protect her. Her children were born in
this country and she wants to be able to raise them here,
and to be able to receive child support that they would not
be able to receive in Mexico.
case originated in Illinois.
was born in Mexico in 1951. She and her husband, David, grew
up in neighboring towns. When she was sixteen they became
engaged. The following year, they married and moved in with
his parents. A year later, in 1969, David decided he wanted
to go to the United States. David did not want Tamara to go
with him because he wanted her to stay and care for his
parents. Tamara was pregnant and David was not with her when
their son was born. David became a lawful permanent resident
and would live in the United States most of the year,
returning to Mexico at Christmas for two or three months.
During the first few years, David would send money to help
support Tamara and the three children they now had. Then he
began sending less. In order to support her family, Tamara
sold things she had such as shoes and clothes. When David
learned of this he became angry and stopped sending money
Tamara became pregnant with their forth child she did not
want to have any more children, but her husband did. At the
time in Mexico, Tamara could not get birth control pills
without her husbands consent so they continued to have
first visited David in the United States in 1986. She was
pregnant again and she came to the U.S. hoping to persuade
David to support her and her son during her pregnancy.
Tamara wanted to stay with her husband but he told her she
had to return to Mexico to care for his parents. Tamara
visited David in 1990, 1993, and 1994. Each time he insisted
she return to Mexico to care for his parents. In 1995, when
Tamara came again, David was even more abusive toward Tamara
and the children. On evening one of the children did not
want to take his medicine. David got angry and grabbed a
large metal spoon intending to hit his son. Tamara
intervened and David hit her in the face with the spoon
knocking her into the wall. Their son was so scared that he
hid under a chair in the kitchen. Tamara went to the phone
to call the police but was afraid what would happen if she
did. Tamara continued to stay in the house with David and
the children because she had no where else to go, but would
not sleep with him. Several weeks later David dragged Tamara
into the bedroom and raped her. This is how Tamara became
pregnant with their youngest child.
continued to live in the United States with her children.
David stopped supporting Tamara or the children. He would
leave for long periods. Several months ago he just left and
has not returned nor contacted anyone. The oldest sons help
support Tamara and the younger children. The youngest child,
who is an American citizen, was born with Downs Syndrome. He
requires physical therapy every week and is being treated
for developmental problems and hearing concerns. Tamara and
two of her daughters provide continual care for him at home.
of Tamara's children are living in the United States except
for the oldest daughter who moved back to Mexico to get away
from her father after he physically abused her. Three of the
eight children are United States citizens living in this
country. The two oldest boys have approved visa
petitions--the only family members David would petition
for--and plan to immigrate to the United States.
and her two daughters would suffer extreme hardship if they
had to return to Mexico for consular processing. The family
would be split apart. They have no place to live in Mexico
nor any way to support themselves for the period of time
they would be required to remain in Mexico to get their
lawful permanent residency status under VAWA. There no
family members who can help assist them. The only people who
would help them are family members of David, on whom she
cannot rely. Her youngest child, who has Downs Syndrome
would also suffer. His mother and sisters are his primary
care givers. If he returned with them, he would not be able
to get the care and services he needs which are not
available for him in Mexico. All the progress he has made
through the efforts of his mother and sisters and the
doctors and rehabilitation specialists would be lost. If he
remained in the United States while his mother and sisters
were forced to leave the country for visa processing, his
only source of care would be from public agencies.
case originated in Illinois.
is the wife of Jesus, a lawful permanent resident of the
United States. They have five children together. They met in
Mexico in 1969 and were married two years later. Eight days
after they were married Jesus began physically abusing
Nancy. He would become angry and start punching her. When
she told her family of the abuse, her father responded that
it was the man who lays down the law and she had to stay in
continued to live with Jesus until he went to the United
States to work. Nancy was three months pregnant at the time.
Jesus returned when he learned that Nancy was having a
difficult pregnancy and stayed with her until their daughter
was born. He then returned to the U.S. to work. Jesus would
stay in the United States most of the year returning to
visit once a year for a month or so. For the first few days
he would by happy, but then he would get angry and begin
beating Nancy. Nancy had another child.
their son was about one-and-a-half years old, Jesus beat
Nancy so severely that she lost feeling in her face. She
went to the Red Cross for x-rays and treatment. The Red
Cross provided her with documentation to take to court, but
the court in Mexico refused to provide any protection for
Nancy or to impose any type of penalty on her husband. Nancy
had tried to protect herself on this occasion. When Nancy's
family heard of this incident, Nancy's father reacted with
anger when he learned she had tried to protect herself.
continued to live in this manner for years. Nancy cared for
the children in Mexico while Jesus lived in the U.S. When
Jesus was in the U.S., he rarely sent money to help support
the children. In order to support her family, Nancy took a
job as a house cleaner and her oldest daughter got a job at
a taco stand.
asked Jesus to submit petitions for herself and the children
so they could join him in the U.S. He responded that she
should not tell him what to do. Finally in 1994, he
submitted petitions for Nancy and their five children. In
1995, Nancy decided that either Jesus should live with the
family or that they should separate. The family moved in
with Jesus in Illinois. Jesus continued to beat Nancy, often
punching her in the face. In September 1997, Nancy obtained
an emergency protective order. The next month she had to
call the police because Jesus was threatening her and the
children. Three months later, Nancy again had to call the
police because Jesus was again harassing and threatening
herself and the children.
oldest son is now in high school. He suffers from severe
depression as a result of the constant violence that has
taken place in his home. His father continues to abuse and
harass him on the phone in violation of the court order. His
father had always forbidden him from having any friends or
even leaving the home. He also feels the pressure to assist
his mother in paying the bills because his father refuses to
support the children. He has been diagnosed as being in need
of long term counseling for his depression. The other
children have also been severely effected by their father's
long term abusive behavior. They exhibit behavioral problems
and are also in need of long term counseling.
and her children would suffer extreme hardship if she had to
return to Mexico. She currently lives near her sister, a
lawful permanent resident and her brother-in-law. They have
supported Nancy and her children both emotionally and
financially throughout Nancy's ordeal with Jesus. Most of
Nancy's relatives live in this country. Her father and seven
brothers and sisters are all lawful permanent residents. Her
mother is in the process of immigrating to this country.
Nancy has no relatives in Mexico who can support her.
they were forced to move to Mexico, Jesus could continue to
harass and abuse Nancy and the children with impunity. Nancy
has already tried to obtain protection from Jesus through
the courts in Mexico, but to no avail. In this country, he
consistently violates the protective order by making
harassing phone calls, but at least the physical violence
has abated. In Mexico, Nancy's children would not have
access to the counseling services they desperately need as a
result of their fathers abusive behavior. Additionally,
Nancy would be unable to get the court-ordered child support
that her children deserve from their father.
case originated in California.
is a 33-year-old woman from Mexico. She became a single
mother of two small children when she was widowed in 1986.
In 1992 she came to the United States seeking a better life
for herself and her children. She began dating Gerardo, a
lawful permanent resident of the United States, and the two
moved in together and eventually married in early 1997.
Marina and Gerardo went on to have two children together.
Gerardo first asked Marina and her children to live with
him, she was surprised and told him she needed some time to
think. Gerardo demanded an answer on the spot. Marina
relented because he insisted that he would provide for her
and her children so that she could stay home and take care
of them. They moved into Gerardo's brother's house and lived
under very poor conditions. Marina thought it would only be
for a few days while they looked for a house of their own,
but they stayed for three years. Marina and the children
slept in the living room. There was no privacy, and
Gerardo's five nephews did not treat Marina's children well.
one week after they moved in together, Marina went to the
store with her children to buy detergent. Gerardo found out
and became enraged, saying Marina must never leave the house
without him. He threatened to beat her and her children if
they ever did it again. He also kept complete control of the
finances, and never let Marina have any money. Gerardo
purchased food, but refused to buy the children clothing or
other items they needed. He prevented Marina from having
friends and being a part of the community. She was forced to
stay in the house all day, constantly facing criticism from
Gerardo's nephews. They did not like Marina and told her
they preferred another woman with whom Gerardo had
previously lived. However, Marina did not leave because she
had become more and more frightened of Gerardo.
took Marina out to his car when he wanted to have sexual
relations, because they did not have their own room. Marina
hated this indignity. He also forced her to have oral sex
with him, and to be intimate with him in ways she did not
like. He told her it was her responsibility because she was
his woman. Sometimes Gerardo would want to have sexual
contact while in the same room with the children, which made
Marina extremely uncomfortable.
finally moved out of Gerardo's brother's house when his
eighteen-year-old nephew beat up Marina's thirteen-year-old
son. Marina's problems with Gerardo worsened when they moved
into their own apartment. Marina was not permitted to leave
the apartment, even to walk her daughter to school. The
children had instructions to come directly home after
school. Moreover, Gerardo began drinking heavily, and was
abusive on a daily basis. He insulted Marina and the
children using foul language, threatened to beat them, and
ran them out of the house. He beat Marina and her children
on several occasions. Gerardo first beat Marina when she
intercepted a blow intended for her son. He hit her twice in
the face with a closed fist. He frequently used his fists to
beat Marina and the children, and he also kicked them.
children were miserable and pleaded with Marina to take them
away from Gerardo. The children did not have legal
immigration papers because Gerardo never filed for them. In
October of 1998, Marina's twelve-year-old daughter Consuela
confessed to her mother that her stepfather Gerardo had been
sexually molesting her. He began by spying on her in the
bathroom through a hole in the wall. This escalated when he
grabbed her from behind and pulled her shorts down. He did
this many times, instructing her not to tell anyone and
threatening to beat her if she did. Consuela said Gerardo
attacked her every time Marina left to do laundry. On one
occasion, Gerardo hit Consuela with a closed fist on the lip
and shoulder. He then pulled her by her hair into the
bedroom, threw her on the bed, and covered her mouth.
Consuela tried to fight him off, but she was only eleven
years old and her strength did not match Gerardo's.
hearing this, Marina immediately reported her husband to the
police and cooperated with the investigation and court
process. In December, her husband was sentenced to sixteen
years in prison for committing two counts of forcible lewd
acts on a child. Marina and her children have taken
important steps to regain control of their lives. Marina and
Consuela are now in therapy, which is crucial to their
emotional well-being and ability to regain self-esteem and
healing following the physical and sexual abuse they
suffered. Consuela in particular cannot be separated from
her therapist for any period of time without suffering
additional unnecessary harm.
has self-petitioned for permanent residence pursuant to
VAWA, and has included both of her children born in Mexico
in her application. Marina and her children would suffer
great hardship if forced to endure consular processing as
the only means of obtaining lawful permanent residency under
VAWA. Marina is the sole protector and provider for her four
children. If she must return to Mexico to obtain lawful
permanent resident status, her family will face hardship. If
she takes the children with her, she must uproot them from
their schools, activities, and therapy for an indeterminate
amount of time. If the process is slow, Marina may lose her
job while she is away. Yet leaving the children behind is
not a viable option, as she is solely responsible for their
care and well-being. The support and security that Marina
and her family have established in the United States should
not be jeopardized by requiring her return to Mexico.
case originated in California.
a citizen of Bangladesh, met her husband Mohammed while
visiting her sister in California in June of 1997. Mohammed
is a lawful permanent resident of the United States, also
originally from Bangladesh. Fatma grew to like Mohammed, and
she found him polite, charming, and quiet. They were engaged
by the end of the month, just before she had to return to
Bangladesh. In September, Fatma resigned from her job as a
flight attendant, and came to the United States to be
after they were married, Mohammed's attitude toward Fatma
changed completely. He became possessive, controlling, and
abusive. He informed Fatma that she must do as he told her
and never question him, or else she would not be allowed to
leave the house, and he would make life very difficult for
her. He frequently called her obscene names, referred to her
as "crazy" or a "mental patient" and
made degrading remarks about women.
then stopped Fatma from visiting her ill sister unless he
was present, and would not allow her to work or go anywhere
on her own. She was forbidden from talking to the neighbors,
using the phone, driving, and even knowing how to get to
their apartment. Fatma only left the house when Mohammed
took her to the grocery store. A college graduate, when
Fatma indicated she wanted to work, Mohammed told her she
could only work as a maid. He said that once he started a
business, she could work for him for $4 per hour.
abuse escalated when Mohammed refused to allow Fatma to
religiously observe the anniversary of her father's death.
When she protested, he pushed her down in the bathroom,
where she hurt her arm. On at least three other occasions,
he grabbed her hair, lifted her up by her neck and choked
her, and threw her against the wall or to the corners of the
room. Often he would attack her sexually, forcing her to
participate in acts with which she was uncomfortable. Once
he squeezed her breast so hard that she could not lift her
arm or sleep on her side for over a week.
morning, Mohammed complained Fatma was disturbing his sleep,
and he got up and threw her across the room. Fatma screamed
for Mohammed's mother who was nearby, and when she arrived,
she encouraged Mohammed to beat Fatma more. He grabbed Fatma
by the neck and slammed her against the wall. Then he threw
her across the room again and threw a chair on top of her.
Fatma suffered injury and bruising to her shoulder and ankle
and had trouble walking for several days. When Fatma
threatened to call the police, Mohammed laughed and said if
she even tried to touch the phone she would be dead, because
he would "cut her into little pieces." He said if
she called the police they would take her away because she
was not a citizen, and he repeatedly threatened to kill her.
Fatma was not aware that Mohammed's abuses against her were
illegal. Fatma stayed with Mohammed both because she feared
his violence and for the sake of the marriage. Furthermore,
due to the strict socio-cultural and religious practices
that Fatma was accustomed to, it was very hard for her to
decide to leave him or report him to the police. Fatma's
family also expected her to stay with her husband and try to
make the marriage work because it was expected of her as the
Fatma left the house and fled to her sister's house.
Mohammed found her there and threatened to harm not only
Fatma, but also her sister and her sister's husband. Fatma's
sister helped her enter a battered women's shelter. Fatma
obtained a protection order and Mohammed was arrested on
three felony counts. Fatma filed for relief under VAWA, and
the couple is now divorced. She obtained equal work
authorization through VAWA, now has a full time job, and is
continuing her education in the United States.
Fatma is required to return to Bangladesh to obtain her
lawful permanent residency under VAWA, the safety she has
found will be jeopardized. In Bangladesh, the police are not
called for domestic violence situations, and a man is never
punished for beating up his wife, whereas a woman is
severely ostracized by the society for leaving her husband
or taking any actions against him. According to the Islamic
law that co-exists with the government laws, a woman is
nothing but a property of her husband. In a male-dominated,
gender-biased, and religiously sensitive society, there is
no place for a woman who dares to leave her husband's house.
Even her own family members hesitate to give her shelter or
help her in any way. Such a woman is seen as an
embarrassment to her family and friends and is treated more
poorly than a prostitute. Mohammed's family members continue
to threaten Fatma's family members in Bangladesh, and they
plan to seek revenge on Fatma for getting Mohammed arrested.
Mohammed has applied for dual citizenship in Bangladesh to
have greater accessibility there, so that he could follow
Fatma to Bangladesh where she would not be protected by her
restraining order or by the law. In addition, Mohammed's
family is very powerful and influential in their country and
can manipulate government officials to act against Fatma.
His family members are in high ranking positions in the
police department, they are rich, own industries, and use
the laborers to do "anything and get away with
it," according to Mohammed. Fatma's family in
Bangladesh consists of her widowed mother, a very ill
sister, and two younger brothers, so they could never afford
a clash with Mohammed's powerful family. Finally, because of
the country's male-dominated culture, the society of
Bangladesh condemns Fatma for taking action against
Mohammed, and not even her own family will protect her or
provide her with shelter. For these reasons, it is extremely
dangerous for Fatma to be required to return to Bangladesh
as the only way to obtain lawful permanent resident status
based on her approved VAWA self-petition.
case originated in California.
and Javier met at a business school in Mexico. After dating
for a time, they decided to marry in 1983. Even in the
beginning of their relationship, Javier caused unhappiness
for Melissa. Twice Melissa became pregnant. Despite her
pleas to keep the child, each time Javier forced her to have
an abortion. The second time almost cost Melissa her life.
Melissa gave birth to a son. Soon after, she became pregnant
with a daughter. It was then that Javier migrated to America
and became a lawful permanent resident. Two years later, he
sent for Melissa. Almost immediately, she became pregnant
with another daughter. Javier was angry. He tormented
Melissa, blaming her and berating her bad judgment. Javier
drank a lot. This was the source of most of the problems in
their relationship. When he was drunk, Javier would hit
Melissa, even in front of her cousins. He also had affairs
with other women. One woman whom Javier impregnated suffered
a miscarriage. Javier's philandering left Melissa feeling
alone and humiliated.
sense of entrapment and loneliness grew worse as Javier
began to exercise more control over her. He isolated her
from her family. He threatened to take the children because
Melissa's brother is gay. He forbade Melissa and the
children to leave the house unless it was with him. Since
Javier worked two jobs, these times were rare.
psychological abuse escalated and Javier began to hit
Melissa more frequently. Then Javier threatened to divorce
Melissa. He threw her out of the house and furiously
vandalized the interior, breaking dishes and destroying the
TV. It was then that Melissa left.
she believed she would be free of Javier, her hopes were in
vain. First he tried to coerce her into coming back by
giving her money. When this failed, he came to see Melissa
at her brother's house. Unaware that he was in a drunken
rage, Melissa opened the door. Javier demanded that she come
home with him. When she refused, he unleashed a furious
barrage of blows upon her. While her terrified children
called the police, Javier physically hoisted her and threw
her from the porch.
is now in jail for domestic violence. But Melissa knows that
she and her children are not yet safe. If his past actions
of anger and vindictiveness are any indication, he will
certainly come after Melissa when he is released.
America, Melissa has the advantage of shelters, police
protection, and restraining orders. If she is forced to
return to Mexico to get her green card, she will have no
such reassurance. Then Javier will once again have the upper
hand. Melissa knows there is no police protection in her
hometown. Here she has relatives to help her. Only her
elderly parents are in Mexico--she has nobody else to turn
to there. If she goes back, it will be much easier for
Javier to have his way with her. Worse yet, Melissa fears
that he will try to take her children away.
and the children have been living in America for nine years.
She has a restraining order and legal custody of the
children. The family's life, school, and church will be
disrupted and traumatized for an unknown period of time if
Melissa must leave to get her green card without her
children. Further, she fears that if she leaves without the
children, their safety could be jeopardized by their abusive
father if she is not here to protect them. If she is forced
to take the children with her, two of them will have a very
difficult time because they barely speak any Spanish. Javier
is a Mexican citizen who is very familiar with Melissa's
hometown and family in Mexico. Melissa is afraid he will
follow her to Mexico where he can harm her and take the
children without being subject to U.S. protection orders and
custody orders. In short, if Melissa has to go back to
Mexico, their safety in Mexico will be jeopardized, and they
will likely have to face an alcoholic, violent father with
case originated in California.
is ethnically Hungarian, but a citizen of Romania. She met
her husband William in Los Angeles in April 1997. William is
a lawful permanent resident of the United States, also
originally from Romania.
than two weeks after they met, Philippa and William moved in
together and planned to get married. William had almost
$15,000 in credit card debts, so they began work in their
apartment complex, Philippa as the manager and William as
the maintenance man.
week later they were married, and soon the nature of their
relationship began to change. William ignored Philippa's
daughter, Martina, and acted cold and distant toward his new
family. When Philippa considered leaving him and moving back
to Romania, William apologized and asked her to stay and try
to make the marriage work. Philippa agreed, and they soon
moved to a different apartment complex where Philippa could
have a larger apartment management position. The couple was
still deep in debt.
August, William began an affair with his friend's
ex-girlfriend, who came to visit from Romania. He took his
girlfriend to the beach, the opera, and restaurants, while
he ignored Philippa and Martina. He became very secretive
and never told Philippa when he was going out or coming
home. He began to berate Philippa constantly, and forbade
her to answer the phone.
September, William came home with a prescription to treat
crab lice, evidence that proved his affair to Philippa.
Philippa moved out of their bedroom and began to sleep on
the sofa. Soon William began to come to her in the night and
force her to have sex with him. She told him "No, I
don't want to do this!" but he forced himself on her
every week. He told her "This is part of the marriage
November, the physical abuse began. When William was
preparing dinner, Philippa attempted to discuss apartment
complex repairs with him. He suddenly became angry and
threatened her with a knife, pointing it at her head.
Philippa did not call the police because she was ashamed of
what those in her apartment complex would think.
December, after William returned from a trip to Romania with
his girlfriend, he informed Philippa he wanted a divorce, so
he could marry his girlfriend. He became verbally abusive,
and threatened to have Philippa deported.
the preceding months, Philippa noticed that William had
begun to drink excessively with friends, and drive drunk. In
December, he began to drink alone, and during these times he
would become violent. One night at the end of December,
William came home drunk and was angry because the door was
locked. Once Philippa opened the door, he grabbed her by the
neck of her shirt and scratched her throat, leaving bruises
on her hands and neck. Martina rushed in and tried to
protect her mother. When Philippa told Martina to call 911,
William shoved Martina violently on the sofa, sending the
phone flying. He yelled at Martina "I am going to kill
you and your mother!" When William tried to attack
Philippa again, Martina began to call the police, but he
slapped her and threw the phone out of her hand.
left the house, and later the police arrived. They asked
Philippa if they wanted him arrested, but she said no for
fear that he would lose his job. She said she felt sorry for
him. Philippa and Martina hid in Martina's room that night,
in fear of William and the rifle he kept behind his pillow.
soon moved out, taking everything from the apartment,
including all the furniture, amenities, and food. Philippa
filed for a restraining order, but never followed through
because of scheduling confusion, and for fear of a
confrontation with William.
Philippa is required to return to Romania to obtain her
lawful permanent residency under VAWA, the law in Romania
will not protect her. Romanian police rarely intervene in
situations of domestic violence, and prosecution of spousal
rape is practically impossible. William has recently
traveled to Romania and has threatened to follow Philippa
and Martina to Romania and kill them. He said, "With
these two hands I will kill you; wherever in the world you
go, I will find you!" In addition, as a member of the
Hungarian minority in Romania, Philippa and Martina would be
subject to ethnic discrimination and oppression and denied
such things as rights to equal education and employment.
Philippa wishes to remain in the United States with her
daughter for the protection against ongoing abuse and
opportunities she could not receive elsewhere. To assure her
safety, she must be able to obtain her lawful permanent
resident status in the United States and must not be
required to return to Romania for any reason.
case originated in the California.
is a citizen of the Philippines whose U.S. citizen parents
brought her to the United States to escape her abusive first
husband. She met her current husband Ricardo in February of
1994 while in California. Ricardo is a lawful permanent
resident of the United States. The couple dated and finally
married in April of 1995.
their courtship and their first month of marriage, Ricardo
was good to Anita. Then he started abusing her physically.
In May, he threw a glass at her, calling her obscene names.
Anita's daughter called the police, but Anita refused to
have Ricardo arrested for fear that he would become more
angry. Ricardo began drinking excessively and smoking drugs.
June, Ricardo hit Anita in the face, knocking her down. As
she tried to escape, he attacked her car with a metal bar.
Although Ricardo served seven days in jail for this
incident, he pressured Anita into refusing to testify
Anita was 2 ½ months pregnant, Ricardo hit Anita in the
face and she fell into the street. When she tried to leave
and remove her things from the car, he started the car and
dragged her down the street. Too scared to call the police,
Anita ran away to San Francisco.
time he would hurt Anita, Ricardo would cry afterwards and
beg her forgiveness. He promised to stop the violence, and
to stop drinking and using drugs. Ricardo found Anita in San
Francisco, and things were calm for a few months.
May of 1996, when their son was 2 months old, Ricardo began
pushing and shoving Anita again. He also forced her to take
drugs, after which she usually passed out. She does not know
what was done with her during these times, but once she woke
up in different clothes.
the next few months, when Ricardo would hit her, Anita would
call the police. In April of 1997, he was arrested and
served over a year for prior domestic violence and violation
of his probation.
began to believe the terrible things Ricardo would say about
her and thought about suicide. She is now benefitting from
therapy, where she is learning how to break the cycle of
abuse. Anita fears having to return to the Philippines to
obtain lawful permanent residency of the United States. All
of her family members are in the United States. She has no
support system in the Phillippines. Further, Anita is afraid
that if she is forced to return to the Phillippines to get
her green card, she will risk being harmed again by her
first abusive husband who still lives there. She believes
Ricardo will find her there and harm her and her son, and
the laws there will not protect her. Anita must not be
required to leave the protection of the United States in
order to become a permanent resident.
case originated in California.
is a citizen of Peru, who came to the United States in 1995
as a church volunteer. A mutual friend introduced her to a
lawful permanent resident named Esteban in October of 1995,
and the two dated and fell in love. After two months, they
agreed to marry and Paola decided not to return to Peru.
Paola and Esteban were married in January of 1996, and Paola
soon discovered she was pregnant.
teenage daughter was unhappy about the marriage and jealous
of Paola's pregnancy. She tried to cause problems between
Esteban and Paola, and she assaulted Paola while she was
pregnant. Esteban did nothing about the behavior of his
daughter and considered leaving Paola because of his
daughter's unhappiness. Their baby was born in April of
1997, and things were calm for a few months.
Paola found out she was pregnant again, Esteban demanded she
get an abortion. When she refused, Esteban became verbally
abusive and threatened to leave her. Esteban's daughter also
became physically and verbally abusive once again. Paola
made several trips to the emergency room during her second
pregnancy because Esteban and his daughter tried to hurt her
so she would lose the baby. Paola called the police but did
not press charges.
day, Esteban and his daughter began to insult Paola and
beat, pushed, and pulled her until she lost consciousness.
Then they left the house, leaving her unconscious with her
eleven month old daughter.
entered a shelter for a time, and then returned home. In May
of 1998, Esteban and his brother attacked her and tried to
take away her immigration papers. Esteban then filed for
divorce in hopes that Paola would be deported.
now faces eviction because Esteban refuses to pay child
support for their two young children. If Paola were forced
to return to Peru to obtain lawful permanent resident status
for the United States, there is no indication of how long
the Peruvian government would detain her in Peru. This
creates a difficult situation for Paola, because if she
leaves her children in the United States, Esteban my be able
to obtain sole custody of them while she is gone. However,
taking them with her poses severe financial hardship,
especially in light of the fact that Esteban is not paying
child support. Paola should not be made to return to Peru
for any reason, and should be allowed to become a permanent
resident of this country without leaving it.
case originated in California.
came to the United States ten years ago to support her
starving parents and younger siblings who live in a rural
village in Mexico. In February of 1993, after a long
courtship, Marta married Carlos, a lawful permanent resident
originally from Nicaragua.
immediately after their marriage, Carlos began treating
Marta abusively. He kept her isolated from her family and
friends, took all her savings, ran up her phone bill, and
treated her like a servant. He constantly yelled at her and
threatened to turn her in to the INS if she complained about
the abuse. Within weeks of their marriage, Carlos began
living with another woman, but he continued to bring his
dirty laundry home to Marta and required that she wash it
for him. Finally, he ordered Marta to leave their apartment.
He forced her into the car, drove her to her brother's
house, and dumped her on the doorstep.
abuse Marta suffered at the hands of Carlos so devastated
and humiliated her that she attempted suicide. She has
needed psychological counseling to help her recover from the
trauma of the abuse ever since the suicide attempt. To make
matters worse, for more than two years following Carlos and
Marta's separation, Carlos continued to stalk Marta and
harass her by phone. He also threatened to call the INS and
turn her in if she refused to sign summary divorce papers.
filed a VAWA self-petition in August of 1995, just before
her divorce from Carlos became final. The INS approved the
petition in July of 1996 and agreed to extend Marta's
voluntary departure and employment authorization each year
until her priority date became current, at which time Marta
would be eligible to apply for adjustment of status. When
the VAWA regulations were originally issued, INS offices
could provide work authorization for VAWA self-petitioners
with approved petitions by granting them either deferred
action status or voluntary departure. However, the new
Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IRIRA),
which passed on September 30, 1996, harmed battered
immigrants like Marta who had received voluntary departure
status. The new law reduced the amount of time this status
could last and made it non-renewable. To address this issue,
in cases like Marta's, the INS district office was supposed
to grant Marta deferred action status before her voluntary
departure expired. Instead, the INS district office
incorrectly instructed Marta to overstay her voluntary
departure. As a result, if Marta is forced to return to
Mexico to obtain her green card under VAWA, the fact that
she has overstayed her voluntary departure could bar Marta
from reentering the United States for 10 years.
the INS approved Marta's petition, it determined that Marta
would suffer severe hardship if she were forced to return to
Mexico. Marta would endure humiliation and ostracism by her
family as a result of her failed marriage and suicide
attempt. In addition, because of the lack of affordable
mental health care in Mexico, Marta would not have access to
the psychological counseling she has needed ever since her
suicide attempt following her abusive marriage. Marta would
risk losing her home, her job, her access to mental health
counseling, and the life she is building in the U.S. if she
were forced to return to Mexico as her only way to obtain
her green card under VAWA.
case originated in California.
came wide-eyed and hopeful to America from Thailand on a
tourist visa. Eager to learn about American culture, she
took a job as a bartender at a local bar. There she met
Ferdinand, a lawful permanent resident. He was funny and
charming, and he was willing to answer Val's eager questions
about American lifestyles.
day Val got into an automobile accident. She was badly
injured. Not knowing what to do, she called Ferdinand
because he worked at a hospital. Ferdinand responded
immediately. He took her to his hospital, where he saw to it
that Val received a complete and proper examination. He also
helped her deal with the problem of the damaged car.
Ferdinand went on to care for Val, too, giving her
door-to-door service to the grocery store and wherever she
needed to go while she was recovering from her injuries. Val
was so impressed with his kindness, she fell in love.
continued to be gentle and kind as their relationship grew.
Val decided to move in with him and soon discovered that she
was pregnant. Val was torn--her tourist visa was soon to
expire, yet she didn't want to raise her daughter apart from
her father. Ferdinand came to the rescue. He wanted Val and
the baby to stay, and sincerely proposed marriage to Val.
the marriage, Ferdinand began to change. Beforehand, he
would take her out when he went out. Now that she was well
into pregnancy, he would leave her home and not return until
4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. After she had the baby, this
pattern continued. Usually, he would come home wanting sex.
If she did not want to have intercourse with Ferdinand, he
would push her, slap her in the face, pull her hair, and
kick her in the chest.
Ferdinand's lifestyle deteriorated, his attacks upon Val
became more frequent and unpredictable. He would have
friends over to their house, smoking, drinking, and using
illegal drugs. When Val complained that the smoke might be
dangerous to their baby, Ferdinand told her to leave the
house. More and more often, he would push and strike her in
front of his friends. Val wanted to call the police, but was
scared to for fear of what Ferdinand might do.
Val's mother came over, Ferdinand got violent with Val
again. During the argument, he slapped her in the face. When
the mother pleaded with him to stop, he forced her to leave,
saying that it was none of her business and that she had no
right to tell him what to do. In another incident, he came
into the bar and struck Val in front of her customers.
Ferdinand also began hitting Val in front of the baby. In
addition to the pain and injury to Val, the baby would cry
and shake whenever she saw her mother being abused.
night when Ferdinand's friends were over, the party became
so raucous that Val called the police. Ferdinand fled that
night. He later returned, but his behavior became even more
frightening. Not only did the beatings continue, but now he
threatened to kill Val. Val knew he owned a gun. She feared
for her life every single time he came home drunk.
all of this time, Ferdinand never gave Val and the baby any
financial support. He often left them alone for long periods
of time. One night, Val thought she heard somebody trying to
break in. Scared, she called Ferdinand. He did not return
for several hours, but when he did, he was drunk. He beat
her so violently that she called the police. He was arrested
moved out with her daughter, but Ferdinand continued to
stalk her. She moved into an apartment building. One night,
Ferdinand buzzed her room, but she refused to let him in. In
fear, she took the baby to her neighbor's room. Ferdinand
got past the building security and pounded on her door,
screaming. Val had to call the police from her neighbor's
has since filed for divorce. Because of the domestic
violence, Val was granted sole custody of the child, but
Ferdinand was given visitation rights. He has already
violated his court order once by drinking while visiting
with his daughter. Then he refused to return her to Val.
Val has to return to Thailand to get her green card, she
will not have anybody with whom she can leave her
two-year-old U.S. citizen daughter. Even if Val could find
somebody with whom to leave her daughter, the separation
could be devastating to such a young child. More
importantly, Val is worried that Ferdinand will snatch her
daughter again during visitation.
yet, if Val has to travel back to Thailand, she (and her
daughter if Val must take her) will be exposed and
defenseless there, especially if Ferdinand follows her. The
Thailand Report on Human Rights Practices states that legal
and societal discrimination against women, violence against
children, and illegal child labor persist in that country.
It reports that domestic abuse is a serious problem and that
police do not enforce laws seriously. Furthermore, court
rules and procedures are severely slanted in favor of men in
domestic law. Val fears that she will become yet another one
of these reported statistics if she is forced to pursue her
green card in Thailand.
case originated in California.
is a twenty-year-old woman from Mexico, who was brought to
the U.S. by her mother. Prior to coming to the United
States, Rosa lived with her father and her father's second
family in Mexico, where her stepmother and her stepmother's
brother subjected her to three years of both physical and
sexual abuse. Her step uncle sexually assaulted and raped
Rosa on a regular basis when she was between the ages of
seven and nine, until her mother's sister found out about
the conditions Rosa was subjected to in her father's house
and rescued her from this situation so that Rosa's mother
Carmen could bring her to California. Carmen had remarried
John, who was a lawful permanent resident of the United
States and John brought Carmen and Rosa to live with him.
Since 1993, Rosa has lived with her mother, Carmen, her
abusive stepfather, John, and her younger half-sister, Ana.
During this time, she has suffered verbal abuse and has
lived in continual fear of physical abuse.
is an alcoholic, and when he comes home drunk and angry, he
insults and demeans Rosa and her mother, calling them sluts
and prostitutes, and telling them they are lazy because
Carmen does not work. He is controlling in the home, does
not allow Rosa or her mother to speak on the phone or to
have people over to the house, and requires that they ask
permission to leave the house.
is a very violent man, and Rosa has witnessed his violent
behavior on many occasions. Once he found Carmen talking on
the phone and he proceeded to yell at her, grabbed the phone
from her, and threw her violently against the door. Rosa's
mother had a large bruise on her shoulder after this
incident, but she did not call the police because she
believed that John would have her deported.
time, he pulled a knife on one of Rosa's cousins,
threatening to kill him. John followed the cousin out into
the street, chasing him with a switch blade. When John
returned to the house, he slept with the switch blade under
his pillow. A month after this incident, Rosa was cleaning
the house and discovered her step-father's knife under the
mattress where John and Carmen sleep. Rosa fears that when
John is drinking and becomes violent, he will use the knife
on her mother or her.
threats are constant, causing Rosa to live in uncertainty
and fear. John's abuse of Carmen makes Rosa feel angry, but
also makes her feel hopeless, because she cannot do anything
to help her mother. She can only watch the ongoing abuse.
a lawful permanent resident, refused to help legalize Rosa
or Carmen's status in the U.S., so that they could work.
Instead, he threatens that he can call immigration and have
them deported. He says that he can get rid of them any time
he wants, so they had better obey him. He also threatens
that by having Rosa and Carmen deported, he will separate
their family by keeping Rosa's half-sister, Ana, who is a
U.S. citizen, with him.
the abuse that Rosa has experienced, she believes that her
life in the U.S. holds more for her than her native country.
She has learned English, graduated from high school, and
hopes to go to college. She has also begun therapy to
overcome the years of severe physical and mental abuse by
John and by her step family in Mexico. This type of
counseling for victims of rape and domestic violence would
not be available to Rosa if she were to return to Mexico,
where there are also not the same protections of women's
needs to obtain her lawful permanent resident status without
being forced to return to return to Mexico, where she would
be separated from her mother and her younger sister, her
only close family who have been her support system. The
family she does have in Mexico, her father's second family,
physically and sexually abused Rosa during the years she
lived with them as a child. Contact with these family
members upon return to Mexico would present very real
dangers to Rosa.
case originated in California.
is a 40-year-old woman from Mexico who has been married to
Jorge, a lawful permanent resident, since 1995. Pamina had
one daughter by him, Jessica, who was born in 1992, and has
two previous children, Evelyn and Manuel, who also live with
abuse began in 1992, when Pamina became pregnant with their
daughter, Jessica, a few months after they began living
together. Jorge drank more and verbally abused Pamina when
he came home intoxicated, calling her a slut and telling her
she was trash and worthless. The almost daily abuse ate away
at Pamina's self-confidence and caused her to become nervous
around Jorge. He was also very controlling, forbidding her
to go out, prohibiting her from seeing her family,
interrogating her when she did leave, and asking the
neighbors to inform him when she left the house. Fearing
yelling and threats, Pamina never left the house except to
buy food. Jorge did not allow Pamina to speak on the phone,
and soon, she lost almost all contact with her family and
stayed with Jorge because she still loved him and hoped that
their relationship would still work out. Jorge's abuse
mainly occurred when he was drunk, and the next day he would
apologize and promise to change. Pamina forgave him and
stayed with him, as she did not want her daughter to grow up
without a father. In 1995, Pamina and Jorge were married.
their marriage, the abuse worsened as Jorge's drinking and
drug use increased. Jorge brought two switchblades home, and
put one into a drawer in the kitchen and the other under the
mattress of the bed. He said that they were for protection,
but since that day, Pamina did not feel safe in her own
house. Once, he used a switchblade to threaten his brother's
wife who was staying with them, shouting that she had to get
out of the house or he would have her taken out in a box.
Pamina had never expected that Jorge would use the knife to
threaten one of his own family members. His loss of control
terrified Pamina and she could not sleep that night. On
another occasion, he pulled the knife on Pamina, ordering
her to tell the guests at their daughter's birthday party to
leave the house.
time Jorge came home reeking of alcohol when Pamina was
talking on the phone. He became angry and began shouting,
and he took the phone and threw it at Pamina. Then he
brutally pushed her into the door, causing bad bruising on
her shoulder. Pamina was terrified that Jorge was going to
beat her, or that he would go and get his knife. Another
time, Jorge came home drunk while Pamina was listening to
the radio. He ripped it out of the wall and threw it,
shouting that he was going to destroy the radio and that he
would destroy Pamina along with it. He began throwing her
things around the room, calling her a slut and shouting at
her to get out of his house.
years now, Pamina has lived in constant fear of Jorge's
violent temper, which is worsened by alcoholism and drug
abuse. His controlling behavior has isolated Pamina from her
family and friends, and Jorge has used violence to control
her. He has done things to her such as throwing a telephone
at her, badly bruising her by slamming her into a doorway,
and threatening her with the switchblade he keeps in the
kitchen drawer. Since Pamina and Jorge got married, Jorge
has steadily become more paranoid and violent. Pamina fears
for her life and the lives of her daughters.
has been trapped in this relationship of verbal and physical
abuse, knowing that, without legal papers, she can not work
to support herself and her family alone. Jorge has
continually used the threat of deportation and of taking
their daughter, to frighten and control Pamina.
she were to return to Mexico as the only avenue to obtain
her green card based on her approved self-petition, Pamina
cannot leave her U.S. citizen daughter Jessica with her
abusive father. Pamina also does not want to subject Jessica
to the traumas of uprooting her from her school and
community fro an unknown period of time. Jessica speaks
Spanish but has never been to Mexico. Further, Pamina is in
counseling for abused women. This program provides her
tremendous psychological support which she will be severed
from if forced to return to Mexico to obtain her green card.
The family Pamina has in Mexico will not support her because
they believe it is a married woman's duty to stay with her
husband. Pamina cannot be assured of how long she will have
to remain in Mexico to get her visa, and fears that her
children will not be safe from Jorge if she leaves them in
the United States alone for an indeterminate amount of time.
story originated in California.
is an 18-year-old woman from Mexico, who came to the U.S. in
1988 with her mother, Eugenia, and her younger brother,
Marcos, to join their father. After their father's death, in
1992, Patricia's mother remarried Martino, a U.S. citizen,
abuse toward the family began after Eugenia and Martino's
baby, Carlos, was born in 1993. Often, Martino struck
Carlos, sometimes with his open hand, other times with a
belt, a sandal, or a shoe. Once, Martino flew into a fit of
rage, and he hurled a shoe at the baby. On another occasion,
Patricia tried to intervene to protect the baby, and Martino
yelled at her and struck her on the hand.
would also get irrationally angry at Patricia for minor
things like making too much noise when she washed the
dishes, or not keeping the baby quiet. Martino verbally
abused Patricia, calling her a bitch, a slut, and a
prostitute. He controlled Patricia's life, making her come
home right after school to do housework and to sell tamales
on the street that Martino had forced Eugenia to make.
Patricia was not allowed time to do her homework or to see
her friends. Patricia's brother, Marcos, suffered the same
watched her mother, Eugenia, suffering physical and
emotional abuse continuously. In August of 1997, Martino
used violence in an argument with Eugenia. He ordered
Eugenia to take the children and leave the apartment.
Eugenia refused to leave until she could talk with the
landlord and get her name off the lease so that the landlord
would not come after her if Martino did not pay the rent.
Eugenia's refusal angered Martino, and he raised his fist as
if to punch her in the face. Instead, he brutally kicked her
in the stomach. The bruises were so severe that they lasted
for two weeks. He then threatened to kill them all with his
machete. Eugenia told Patricia to hide the machete and all
the other big knives in the house. Patricia hid the knives
that night, and when Martino found that the machete was
missing, he went out of control and ransacked Patricia's
bedroom, searching for the machete and destroying the room.
At that point, Patricia began to realize that Martino might
actually carry out his threat of killing them.
week later, Eugenia and Martino got in another argument over
the rent money, which she had hidden so that he would not
spend it before the rent was due. Martino threatened to call
the police, who he said would have Eugenia and her older
children deported. He said he would take their American born
baby away from them. Then he screamed that once he found his
machete, he would chop Eugenia into little pieces and send
her into the dirt to lie with her dead husband. Eugenia
threatened to call the police, but Martino said that he
would be released in three days and come back and kill them.
Eugenia called nonetheless. Martino then began to panic,
apologizing and begging Eugenia to tell the police ti was a
mistake. But the police did not come right away, and Martino
began to think they would never come. He got angry again and
taunted Eugenia. He grabbed her by the arm and was about to
hit her when the police pulled up. The police took
photographs of the bruises still on her stomach from the
previous beating and arrested Martino.
Martino's arrest, Patricia moved with her mother and brother
into hiding, fearing that he would find them and carry out
his threats to kill them. They obtained a restraining order
protecting them against Martino. Martino was criminally
tried, convicted, and sentenced to jail for the abuse he
inflicted on them.
has since been released from prison. Patricia must return to
Mexico to obtain her lawful permanent residency under VAWA,
but her protection order will not protect her from him once
she crosses the Mexican border. Patricia has grown up in
Southern California since she was eight years old, and
considers the U.S. her home. Her entire support system, her
close family, including her grandparents, and friends, live
in the U.S. as well. If she were forced to return to Mexico,
she would leave this support network and have to leave her
baby brother with her mother, who, alone, may not be able to
protect him from Martino. Here, Patricia is in counseling
for abuse, an opportunity she would not have in Mexico. She
plans to continue her studies and hopes to be a
photographer. After all that she has gone through, she
should be able to obtain relief under VAWA without having to
return to Mexico.
story originated in California, moved to Utah, and is
currently in California.
a 22-year-old native of El Salvador, came to the U.S. when
she was 14 years old. In April of 1995, she met Juan, a U.S.
citizen. In the beginning, they were happy together. One
night, Juan proposed marriage to Lina. She was very happy
and accepted. She looked forward to their coming marriage.
Juan got a job, and Lina stayed home and took care of the
house. Both Juan and Lina were very excited about getting
married and having a baby. In 1996, they were married in a
civil ceremony in Utah which was attended by some of their
close friends. Juan's abuse began later that year, after the
birth of their son, Enrique. He would act violently towards
both Lina and Enrique, later promising to her that he would
change his behavior.
1997, Lina and Juan returned to California seeking better
job opportunities for Juan. There, the violence escalated.
One particularly violent outburst occurred one night in
September of 1997, when Juan became irrationally angry at
the baby for crying. He tried to take Enrique from Lina's
arms, but she didn't let him, fearing that he would hurt the
baby. Juan tried to grab the baby again, hitting the baby
very hard when he ripped him from Lina's arms. He threw the
screaming baby into his crib and hit him several times in
the face and head to make him stop crying.
anger then turned toward Lina. He grabbed her and pushed her
down on the bed. Lina could not move because Juan had pinned
her down underneath him. Juan started punching her with a
closed fist, punching her in the left eye several times.
Lina struggled to get Juan off of her, and he beat her even
harder, hitting her on the back of her head, in her chest,
and in her ribs. He gave her a black eye, and the beatings
caused bumps on her head and several bruises.
the following day, after seeing the black eye and hearing
the story of the beating, Lina's mother called the police.
Juan was arrested and served three months in prison for
child abuse. Since Juan was released from jail, Lina has had
very little contact with him. She is still afraid of Juan,
and she does not want Juan to hurt her or their baby. Juan
comes to visit a few times a month, but Lina does not let
him being alone with the baby because she is afraid that he
might hurt him or take him away from her.
has lived in the U.S. for nine years and has the support of
family and friends living in this country who provide the
support she now needs to keep herself and Enrique safe from
Juan's ongoing abuse. Lina is afraid to return to El
Salvador to obtain her green card under VAWA because she
fears that if Juan finds out she has left the U.S. he will
follow her there, where she would have no protection against
case originated in Maryland.
is a 29-year-old woman from Nigeria. In 1995, while working
in Lagos, Nigeria, a friend of Elise mentioned he knew an
American man named Raymond who was hoping to settle down and
wanted to meet her. The friend gave Raymond Elise's address,
and he began writing to her. He requested her phone number,
and soon began calling her every day at work. He then
traveled to Nigeria for a three week visit, and the two
enjoyed meeting and spending time together. Three months
later, Raymond visited again.
continued to call Elise at work almost every day, telling
her to go straight home after work and not to talk to
anyone. Elise believed Raymond's interest in everything she
was doing was a sign of love. In the summer of 1996, Elise
and Raymond were married in Nigeria, and shortly thereafter
Elise realized she was pregnant.
that year, Elise moved to America to live with Raymond.
Elise worked with Raymond at his business, and things went
well for the first few weeks. Elise then began to experience
hostility from an office manager at the business, and at
first thought little of it. Then one morning this woman
called their home and hung up upon hearing Elise's voice.
When Elise mentioned to Raymond she thought this was odd, he
flew into a rage, screaming that anyone could call him any
time about anything. Elise tried to clarify what she said,
but Raymond would hear nothing of it, and continued to
curse, slam doors, and accuse Elise of trying to ruin his
business. Elise was saddened and depressed when Raymond
became angry, but this only made him angrier. He said she
had no right to be depressed and that he did not care about
her feelings. He would not permit Elise to look sad or to
frown. After this incident, Raymond forbade Elise to pick up
frequently forced sex upon Elise, and consistently wanted to
have sex in positions with which Elise was uncomfortable.
When she mentioned that he was hurting her, he would get
angry and curse at her. He would also yank her head down and
force her to give him oral sex. She was never allowed to say
learned that Raymond was in relationships with several other
women. Often these women would call during the day and she
would speak with them. When Raymond came home and found out
that Elise had answered the phone and had learned of his
affairs, he hit her hard on her face with the back of his
hand. He said one of the women would kill Elise, and he
would get in trouble for it. Elise began to cry, but this
only made Raymond more angry.
her pregnancy and afterwards, Raymond discouraged Elise from
making friends and talking to anyone, even his family. He
accused her of trying to get people to like her more than
they liked him. Raymond also stopped bringing Elise to work;
because her pregnancy often made her tired and sick, he
claimed she was no good and useless. She was not allowed to
go anywhere without Raymond, and was forbidden to find a job
of her own. Elise was a lawyer in Nigeria, but Raymond would
not let her take the bar exam in America. He also disparaged
her pregnancy by saying he could not sleep at night because
it was disgusting to sleep with a pregnant woman. He had
demanded Elise have an abortion, but she refused. When she
suffered from morning sickness, he would yell at her, saying
she made him sick.
a routine prenatal exam, Elise received a precautionary HIV
test and was horrified to discover it was positive. When
Raymond arrived, he refused to be tested. When he took Elise
home, he acted sweet and tender to her, explaining that a
former girlfriend claimed she was HIV positive, but he had
not believed her. He told Elise not to worry, and that he
would take care of her.
daughter was born in 1997, in a C-section procedure. When
Elise's stitches became infected, Raymond would not take her
to the hospital, claiming he had better things to do. Often,
Raymond would not pick up Elise's HIV medication in order to
punish her for not obeying him.
July of 1997 they moved to Maryland, where Raymond started a
new branch of his business. When Elise began to become
concerned about her immigration status, Raymond lashed out
at her. He hit her repeatedly with a closed fist, and then
began kicking her, knocking her onto the bed on top of the
baby. Elise picked up the baby to protect her, hoping
Raymond would not attack her while she was holding the baby.
He tried to grab the baby back, and Elise gave her to him
because she did not want him to pull on the baby's body.
Raymond accused Elise of marrying him for her green card. He
then put the baby on the bed and yanked Elise by the hair
into the bathroom. When Elise accidentally scratched his
face in self defense, he made her kneel on the floor. After
this incident, Elise was in so much pain that she could not
get out of bed for two days.
January of 1998, Elise began to become desperate for the HIV
medication Raymond was withholding. She was also concerned
about her immigration status, and mentioned to Raymond that
she heard an immigration law was changing that month.
Raymond became angry and violent, hitting Elise with the
back of his hand and pushing at her face. He said he would
have her deported and maybe kill her. He said one night that
he was going to shoot Elise in her sleep. She was afraid to
mention immigration papers again. She considered calling the
police, because Raymond's family had warned her that he had
been jailed for beating a girlfriend before. However,
Raymond told Elise she was stupid, and that his family was
just manipulating her to get his money.
began traveling for extended periods, meeting with other
women around the world. When Elise dared to confront him
about this, he became enraged. He left, and soon after Elise
began to receive threatening phone calls from his family.
Later he and a few family members showed up to force Elise
to apologize for her indignance. Intimidated, depressed, and
trying to placate Raymond for the sake of the baby, Elise
apologized. Later that night, Raymond came upstairs and
began yelling for Elise to take her clothes off. He yelled
that she was an idiot, and grabbed her mouth and twisted it.
When he started pulling and punching Elise, the baby started
to cry. Elise tried to lay down with the baby to comfort
her, but Raymond continued to pull off her clothes. Elise
got up and ran to the door, but Raymond grabbed her and
pulled her panties down, trying to assault her from behind.
He then yanked her into the bedroom and started to hit her.
Neighbors heard the commotion and called the police, but
Raymond assured the police it was only a small domestic
matter. The police informed Elise that she could take
Raymond to court, and the next day she went to court and
obtained a protective order.
wishes to remain in the United States to raise her daughter,
who is an American Citizen. If she were forced to return to
Nigeria to become a lawful permanent resident, she would
face extreme hardship. Raymond, who has significant contacts
in Nigeria, could easily follow her to there, where her U.S.
protective order would not protect her. Under Nigerian law,
since Elise is Raymond's wife, he would be able to control
her in any way he saw fit including perpetration and abuse,
and there would be no one she could turn to for protection.
Raymond is also bound by court order to stay away from
Elise, to obey the order granting her custody of the child,
and to financially support Elise and their daughter. During
the time Elise and their daughter are detained in Nigeria,
her protection order is not enforceable.
Elise is now receiving ongoing treatment for her HIV
infection here in the United States. Raymond transmitted
this HIV infection to her. While her daughter shows no signs
of being infected yet, she must continue to be monitored
medically. Neither Elise nor her daughter would be able to
receive the medical care they require while in Nigeria. It
is necessary for Elise to obtain her green card without
leaving this country, as this is the only way to ensure her
the rights and safety.
case originated in Arizona.
is originally from Mexico. She has a thirteen-year-old son
from a prior marriage named Tomás and a seven-year-old
daughter from her current marriage named Margarita. Paloma's
current husband is named Pedro. Paloma and Pedro met and
fell in love eight years ago. Pedro is originally from
Mexico, but he is now a lawful permanent resident of the
Pedro, and little Tomás settled in Arizona several years
ago. A little while after Paloma and Pedro married, Pedro
started abusing Paloma. He would hit Paloma repeatedly. He
would insult and demean her often. On one occasion, Pedro
struck her with such force on the side of the head that she
lost her hearing for an entire day. The beatings were
regular and severe. Pedro also physically abused Paloma's
son Tomás from the time the boy was five years old. Pedro
would beat Tomás with a belt as punishment whether or not
Tomás had done anything wrong. He imposed arbitrary rules
on the child and would punish him severely if the rules were
ever broken. He would also impose grueling physical torture
on the boy for the smallest acts of misbehavior. For
example, if Tomás ever displeased Pedro by talking too
loudly or leaving a toy on the floor, Pedro would punish the
child by making him kneel against the wall holding heavy
books in each of his hands. Tomás would have to raise the
books over his own head and hold them there for long periods
of time. If the kindergartner ever let his arms droop down
from the weight of the books, Pedro would increase the
length of the punishment.
soon became pregnant with Margarita. While she was pregnant,
Pedro continued to physically and emotionally torment her.
Once, he placed a sharp kitchen knife against Paloma's
pregnant stomach and threatened to kill her. He whispered in
her ear that if he killed her, no one would ever find out.
Paloma believed his threat: she had no friends or family to
whom she could turn for help in the U.S. She was completely
dependent on Pedro for food and money for her son and new
baby. She felt helpless and trapped in the abusive
Margarita was born, Paloma decided to save herself and her
two children from Pedro's violence. Since she had no support
or family in the U.S., she and her children fled to Mexico
to seek solace with her parents. She believed she was
finally safe from Pedro. Unfortunately, though, Pedro
followed her across the border. When Paloma was hospitalized
briefly with an illness, Pedro seized the opportunity to
kidnap Margarita from Paloma's parents' home. Pedro crossed
back into U.S. territory and then filed for divorce and sole
custody of Margarita.
was frantic at the thought of losing her daughter to her
abuser. It took Paloma six months to apply for and receive a
visitor's visa to reenter the U.S. and begin defending
against Pedro's motion for custody. She had to leave Tomás
in Mexico with her parents when she returned to the U.S.,
and she has been separated from her son ever since.
Meanwhile, the custody battle between Paloma and Pedro has
dragged on, and the court has ordered Paloma to keep to a
particular schedule for visiting Margarita. Pending final
resolution of the case, she has shared custody with Pablo.
However, if she misses even a day of visitation, Paloma
believes that Pedro will report this to the court and move
for termination of her custody and visitation with
has received approval of her VAWA petition for residency. If
she is forced to return to Mexico as the only way to get her
green card under VAWA, Pedro has already demonstrated his
willingness and ability to follow her there. If she is
forced to go to Mexico, she may never see her daughter
Margarita again. One of two things will probably happen.
Either Pedro will petition the court for termination of
Paloma's custody and visitation rights on the grounds that
she abandoned Margarita and returned to Mexico, or he will
simply kidnap Margarita again and disappear with her
somewhere in the U.S. Paloma wants nothing more than to be
reunited with her two children and build a safe, happy life
for them away from Pedro's abuse. She risks all of this by
returning to Mexico to get her green card.
case originated in Arizona.
is originally from Mexico. She met her husband, Manuel, in
Mexico six or seven years ago. Manuel is a lawful permanent
resident of the United States originally from Mexico. The
two married after four years of dating and courtship. They
later came to live in the United States and eventually had a
child, who is a U.S. citizen. Susana also has two children
living with her from a prior relationship.
their marriage, Manuel subjected Susana to severe physical
and emotional abuse. Susana did not report many of the
beatings to the police because she was afraid that Manuel
would treat her more cruelly in retaliation. Susana's fear
of Manuel continued to grow throughout the two years of
their marriage. Eventually, her fear of Manuel overcame her
fear of calling the police.
soon as Susana began calling the police to help her, Manuel
found himself facing charge after charge of domestic assault
and battery. Susana called the police and had Manuel
arrested after he held her at gunpoint in their home for an
entire day. On another occasion, Manuel set fire to the bed
while Susana and her sister were sleeping in it. He was
charged with arson soon afterwards. The violence and fear in
Susana's household reached breaking point when Manuel
subjected Susana to an intense, bloody, and horrible beating
for which he was later convicted of domestic assault and
battery and placed in jail. Following this beating, Susana
attempted suicide. She was so depressed and fearful of
Manuel that she saw suicide as the only way out of the
constant beatings, threats, and violence.
finally decided to flee the U.S. and Manuel and return to
her family in Mexico. She escaped with her children to her
sister's home in a small Mexican town and attempted to
rebuild her life there. Manuel followed her. He had been in
jail in the U.S., serving out his sentence for domestic
violence against Susana. The moment Manuel received a
temporary work release from jail, he seized his opportunity
to immediately cross the border to Mexico find Susana. He
knew exactly where she lived. Once he located Susana in her
sister's home, he attacked and injured both Susana and her
sister and trashed Susana's sister's house. Susana called
the Mexican police, but they did nothing to protect her. The
police did not even take Manuel into custody. Realizing that
the only country with laws to protect her from domestic
violence was the United States, Susana and her children fled
back to Arizona. There, Susana obtained an enforceable
restraining order against Manuel.
consulted a lawyer when she returned to the U.S. and filed a
VAWA self-petition for residency. Though her visa petition
has been approved, Susana remains fearful about the next
step in getting her green card. Under the current law,
Susana will be forced to return to Mexico as the only way of
getting her green card. Once she returns to Mexico, Susana
has no doubt that Manuel will follow her and hurt or kill
her. Susana knows from experience that the Mexican police
will not protect her from Manuel's violence and abuse.
Therefore, the only place where Susana can be protected from
injury, torture, and death at the hands of Manuel is the
United States. Outside U.S. borders, Susana's restraining
order is unenforceable, and Susana faces grave danger, and
possibly death if she is forced to leave.
case originated in Arizona.
is originally from Mexico. At a young age, she met and
married Pablo, also a Mexican citizen. Pablo subjected Elena
to years of physical and emotional abuse and terror. She
tried to get police and family members to help her, but no
one could keep her safe from Pablo in Mexico. Police never
arrested Pablo for constantly beating her, and the laws of
Mexico did not hold Pablo accountable for spouse abuse.
Eventually, Elena divorced Pablo. This did not end the
violence, though. Pablo continued to stalk Elena even after
the divorce, and he attempted to kill her on one occasion.
Fearing that Pablo would kill her in Mexico and knowing that
she could not be safe in that country, Elena fled to
Arizona, she met a man named Kevin, who was a United States
citizen. After two years of dating, she and Kevin married.
To Elena's shock and dismay, Kevin soon began to mistreat
her. He had a drinking problem that continued to worsen. He
would lose control and go into rages of destruction and
violence. Along with damaging household property and
shouting threats and obscenities at Elena, Kevin also
attacked her. He would pull her hair, grab her wrists, and
chase her out of the house. Once Kevin violently attacked
Elena when Elena was in her seventh month of a delicate
pregnancy for which she had spent the previous month
hospitalized and bedridden. Luckily, the baby was not hurt
following Kevin's violent assault on Elena.
called the police more than once during her marriage to
Kevin. She ultimately succeeded in obtaining a restraining
order against him, granting her legal custody of the child
and allowing her to separate from Kevin. Now that she has
completed her VAWA petition for residency, she faces the
horror of returning to Mexico as the only way of obtaining
her green card under VAWA.
originally entered the U.S. because she was fleeing her
violent, abusive ex-husband, Pablo. This man stalked her for
years, and he attempted to kill her. He is still waiting in
Mexico for her to return, and he knows exactly where she
would stay if she returned to get her green card. Elena
knows that the Mexican police are ineffective at protecting
battered women from their violent husbands--their
ineffectiveness forced Elena to leave Mexico in the first
place, since she was not being protected there by the
Mexican government. Elena left Mexico alone, without
friends, family, or money, out of sheer terror. She fled in
order to save her own life. She has made friends in Arizona
and has a support system of friends and service providers
helping her and her young child. Now, if she must return to
Mexico, the laws of the United States will not protect her,
and her life will be in peril once more.
case originated in Arizona.
is originally from Mexico. She married Scott, a United
States citizen whom she met in Mexico. Scott brought
Mercedes to live with him in the United States. Scott seemed
like a charming, loving person when Mercedes dated and fell
in love with him. After they got married though, Mercedes
discovered that Scott had a serious substance abuse problem
and an inability to control his temper. He began physically
and emotionally abusing Mercedes.
kept Mercedes isolated in their home. He monitored her
movements very closely, refusing to let her leave the house
without him. She was not allowed to talk with others on the
telephone or make friends of her own. She wanted to work to
help support the family, but Scott refused to file a
petition to obtain Mercedes's legal immigration status and
work authorization. Consequently, Mercedes was left alone in
the house, completely dependent on Scott for all her
necessities. Because of Scott's drug and alcohol addictions,
he was often fired from jobs. During the three years of
their marriage, Scott and Mercedes were frequently homeless,
with Scott unemployed and hooked on drugs, and Mercedes
unable to work because Scott would not file for her
and Mercedes had a child, Alison, who brought much joy to
Mercedes's life. Otherwise, Mercedes was absolutely
miserable in her marriage. Scott had begun punching,
slapping, and kicking Mercedes on a regular basis, and she
was very afraid of him. He would go into rages, beating her
severely and destroying furniture within their home.
Whenever Mercedes would try to call the police, Scott would
threaten to have her deported and to take Alison away from
her. Nevertheless, Mercedes reported Scott's abuse to the
police three times. Each time, the police intervened, and
Scott was jailed and prosecuted for domestic violence.
fled her home and entered a battered women's shelter after
Scott brutally raped and beat her one evening. She consulted
with attorneys about initiating a VAWA self-petition. Once
her petition is approved, she will have to return to Mexico
as the only way of getting her green card under VAWA. This
would pose a very grave danger and hardship to Mercedes and
Mercedes is forced to return to Mexico, she will have no one
with whom to leave her daughter. She is very afraid that
Scott will try to take Alison away from her, either by
filing with the court for custody or by kidnaping the little
girl. Mercedes cannot afford to make the trip to Mexico, but
if she had to return, she would have to take Alison with
knows where Mercedes would be staying in Mexico, and she is
afraid that he would follow her and take their child away
from her. He is a U.S. citizen, so he can enter and leave
Mexico easily. He has done so in the past. Mercedes feels
that if he found her in Mexico, he could have the
opportunity to physically assault her and then take their
child. Mercedes would not be safe from Scott's abuse if she
were forced to return to Mexico to get her green card.
case originated in Arizona.
is 41 years old, originally from a small village in Mexico.
In Mexico, Maria was a single parent. Her daughter's
biological father never took interest in providing emotional
or financial support for them. Maria, who has a degree in
veterinary medicine, worked for a cooperative farm. She went
to Arizona eight years ago, when her daughter was eleven
months old, to visit a brother who lived in Nogales,
Arizona, and her sister and father, who owned property and
lived in Tucson. At a gathering at her sister's house, she
met Jim, an American citizen. Maria said Jim "seemed
real nice," and when they started dating, he
"treated me and my daughter so nice." She said,
"I felt so special. I never thought things would
months after their wedding, the abuse began. The couple
lived with Jim's parents for the first four months of their
marriage. Jim and his family drink excessively. When Jim was
not drinking, Maria found him to be in a bad mood.
their first argument, Jim grabbed Maria by the neck. His
parents pulled him away, but his aggression toward Maria
only intensified after this incident. While Jim assured
Maria when they married that he would help her file for
immigration status, he soon changed his attitude. Jim did
the initial filing, but was too drunk to attend the
interview meeting. He also began to accuse Maria of marrying
him for her papers. Whenever Maria has attempted to call the
police or involve his family in their private affairs, Jim
has threatened to report her and have her deported.
is a veterinarian, but Jim has forbidden her from working in
her field. She now cleans hotel rooms to make ends meet.
Maria's young daughter Rosa stays with Jim during the night
while Maria is at work. Often Jim wakes Rosa up in the
middle of the night to go out and buy alcohol for him, or to
make him something to eat.
is subject to many types of abuse from Jim. A large and
powerful man, he abuses her physically and has flung her
across a room into a wall. He insults and threatens her,
refuses to support the family financially, and forces her to
perform sexual acts against her will. Rosa, now eight years
old, has been witness to it all.
often takes refuge at her sister's house, but Jim always
finds her. He has threatened to kill her if she attempts to
leave again. She is afraid to enter a shelter, because she
would have to change jobs in order for Jim not to find her.
This is impossible due to her current immigration status.
four years into the marriage, Maria has been diagnosed with
depression and anxiety and is under medical treatment. When
she speaks of her experience, she cries and her body shivers
as in a trance. This handsome, charismatic man double her
size is so different from the man she originally met. Rosa's
behavior has also been affected due to her witnessing the
abuse of her stepfather. Recently, the situation has begun
to worsen for Maria and Rosa. Jim has begun to experience
blackouts and Maria has had to drag him into the apartment
on several occasions. Because of his large size and her fear
of being seriously injured from an attack, Maria has made
arrangements with a neighbor who will call the police when
she hears fighting.
Maria has filed a self petition without Jim's knowledge, she
is unable to return to Mexico to obtain her green card. Jim
monitors her whereabouts and will not let her leave; he has
threatened to find her anywhere and kill her if she leaves
again. In addition, Rosa came to this country as an infant,
and it is the only home she knows. Maria cannot uproot Rosa
from school and activities for an unknown amount of time to
return to Mexico. However, she is, of course, afraid to
leave Rosa with Jim. Finally, because she only works as a
maid and is the sole supporter of the family, she cannot
afford a trip to Mexico. She may have to be there for
several months, and has no family, friends, or support
system there. For these reasons, Maria should be allowed to
obtain her green card here in the United States. Once she
has obtained it she will possess the power necessary to
leave Jim and end his abuses.
case originated in Iowa.
is originally from Lesotho, a kingdom surrounded by South
Africa. She fled to the United States along with her three
children after her husband, Omari, was murdered by the head
of a counterfeiting gang. The gang had been harassing Omari,
who was the paymaster of a mine, for over a year. They had
wanted him to switch the real currency of the mine with
counterfeit currency. After a year of threats and
intimidation, Omari still refused to switch the currency,
and the gang shot and killed him in the street. After his
murder, police asked Ayesha to assist them in catching those
responsible for the crime. As a result, the gang leader and
his supporters discovered that Ayesha knew about their
schemes. They threatened her life and her children's lives
and forced them to seek refuge in the U.S.
living in the U.S. and taking classes at a state university,
Ayesha met Todd, a lawful permanent resident of the United
States. Todd helped Ayesha deal with the pain of losing her
husband and leaving her country. Soon, Todd and Ayesha
became friends and started dating. They later married and
settled in Iowa.
after they were married, Todd started treating Ayesha and
her children cruelly. He would insult the children and
scream at them, and most often he would simply neglect them.
He would also push and slap Ayesha whenever he would get
angry at her. This violence only escalated throughout their
alcoholism soon affected his ability to work. He quit
working full-time, and Ayesha was forced to assume all his
work responsibilities and entirely support the family. She
and her children were treated as slaves by Todd, always
doing the cooking and cleaning for him. As time passed
Todd's behavior only grew more violent and erratic. On one
occasion, he punched Ayesha in the face as she was driving
the car, causing her to lose control of the car and veer off
the road. On other occasions, Todd would wake the entire
family up in the middle of the night, ordering all the
children to gather around him and listen as he insulted
their mother and called her "an awful whore."
May of 1998, Todd unleashed his rage on Ayesha for the last
time. He kicked her leg repeatedly, causing a deep wound and
an infection called "cellulitis." Ayesha still
limps to this day and suffers leg pain as a result of Todd's
abuse. Following this incident, Ayesha called the police and
received a no contact order from the court, requiring that
Todd stay away from Ayesha and the children. Todd eventually
plead guilty to the charge of domestic violence for
attacking Ayesha. A month later, he was arrested again for
violating the no contact order by calling Ayesha's daughter
and threatening Ayesha and her family with physical
violence. He has threatened to kill Ayesha for having him
separating from Todd, Ayesha consulted an attorney and filed
her VAWA self-petition for residency. Now she must return to
South Africa as the only way of getting her green card. Such
a return to South Africa will put Ayesha and her children at
serious risk of injury or death for several reasons. First,
the counterfeiting gang that murdered Ayesha's first husband
is eager to retaliate against Ayesha for assisting the South
African police in the investigation. They have threatened to
kill Ayesha and her family. Second, there is a current
political crisis in Lesotho, accompanied by a military
invasion from South Africa, which has contributed to
instability in the region. Because of the instability,
Ayesha and her family are even more vulnerable to terrorist
attacks by the counterfeiting gang. Third, Ayesha fears that
Todd will travel to South Africa and try to hurt her or kill
her. Law enforcement in South Africa does not believe it is
their job to intervene to protect victims of domestic
violence, and will do nothing to enforce Ayesha's no contact
order. Further, there is a general lack of resources
available for battered women in Lesotho. Because of all
these reasons, forcing Ayesha and her three children to
return to Lesotho as the only avenue to obtain her green
card under VAWA puts her at risk of torture and death.
case originated in Iowa.
is originally from Mexico. She came to the United States
with her family when she was in high school. Just after
graduating from high school, she met Diego, a lawful
permanent resident of the United States. The two courted and
dated for a year-and-a-half, and then they married in a
church before family and friends.
was only a week after the wedding that Diego began to
change. He became very possessive and would not allow
Allegra to see her family. Allegra found herself completely
isolated from the outside world. She was not allowed to have
visitors come to visit or speak to people she knew at
church. Eventually Diego forced her to move with him to
another state where she knew no one. They stayed at his
sister's house where she was often denied food. In time,
Diego began sexually abusing her, making her have sex with
him against her will. He would rape her so brutally that she
suffered bleeding and internal injury. After one of these
incidents, Allegra fled to her brother's house, and Diego
followed her. He threatened her brother's life, and he told
Allegra that unless she came back to him, she would never
see her brother again. Someone in Allegra's family called
the police to the scene. When they arrived, the police only
spoke with Diego, since he was the only English speaker in
the group. To Allegra's amazement and horror, the police
left without arresting Diego.
months later, when Allegra was pregnant with their first
child, Diego almost killed her. Allegra was sick with a high
fever and the flu. Diego had refused to take her to a
doctor, telling her that since she did not have a social
security number, she would be deported if she sought medical
treatment. As the night wore on, Allegra became cold and
asked Diego to turn up the thermostat in the house. When
Diego refused to do this, Allegra got up and tried to do it
herself. That was when Diego pushed her back to the bed and
began to suffocate her. He picked her up by her neck and
punched her repeatedly. Then he slammed her head against the
door. There was no phone in the house, so she could not call
for help. Allegra screamed loudly, and Diego threw her back
on the bed and covered her mouth forcefully with his hand,
until he drew blood from her mouth. Finally, he raped her
and left her there on the bed.
next day, Allegra miscarried their child. All that day, she
begged Diego to take her to the hospital, as she was
bleeding profusely and was sick with fever. He told her to
stay in bed and responded, "our problems are private
ones." Towards the evening, though, Diego finally
called Allegra's parents, who came to pick her up and take
her to a doctor. Allegra has not had contact with Diego
since that day.
filed a VAWA self-petition for residency on the basis of her
abusive relationship with Diego. She has been receiving
mental health counseling since her separation from Diego,
and she is trying to rebuild her life and make plans for
attending college. She wishes to become a teacher.
Allegra is forced to return to Mexico to get her green card
under VAWA, she will face serious danger. Diego knows her
address in Mexico and has already called her family members
in Mexico, threatening to hurt Allegra if she returns.
Allegra knows that Diego has a gun and would not be afraid
to use it to kill her. She is certain that Mexico lacks the
laws and services to protect her from Diego's abuse. She is
also terrified that if she returns to Mexico, Diego will
follow her there and finally kill her for leaving him.
case originated in Iowa.
is a citizen of Mexico. She met her husband, Nicolo, in
Mexico when he was visiting his family there. Nicolo was
living in California at the time and was a lawful permanent
resident of the United States. Nicolo and Marisia began a
long-distance relationship which lasted for the next six
years. At the end of that period, Nicolo proposed to
Marisia, and the two married in Las Vegas the next year.
the wedding, Marisia noticed Nicolo's behavior changing. He
was almost never home, and he forbade her from leaving the
house or making friends. Marisia was required to stay in the
house at all times, so if there were no food in the house,
Marisia would not eat. In fact, she lost 20 pounds in the
first month of their marriage. She was incredibly depressed
and lonely, and she was also entirely dependent on Nicolo
for all her necessities.
Nicolo did come home, he was usually drunk or high on
marijuana or cocaine. He would yell insults at Marisia and
demean her in front of others. When she was pregnant, he
would not allow her to see a doctor for check-ups. He also
became physically abusive when angry, often pushing her or
grabbing her roughly by the arms and leaving welts and
bruises on her skin.
finally decided to leave Nicolo after the birth of their
second child. She had grown increasingly fearful of Nicolo
and depressed at his mistreatment of her. She received a
restraining order against him, but he violated it often. He
would come by the house to talk to Marisia and try to
convince her to come back to him. He has continued to call
her repeatedly to harass and threaten her, even after she
received a permanent restraining order. Although he
continues to harass and threaten her, the restraining order
has made him reduce his physical violence. Marisia is
certain that the restraining order is the only thing keeping
her safe from Nicolo.
believes that if she must return to Mexico to get her green
card, Nicolo will follow her there. He remains in contact
with his family in Mexico. Marisia is afraid that he will
try to hurt or kill her there, since her restraining order
will not be enforceable outside the jurisdiction of the
United States. In addition, Marisia is fearful that Nicolo
will try to kidnap the children while she is in Mexico. He
has already threatened to do so.
is trying desperately to rebuild her life after her
marriage. She and her children are receiving counseling at a
shelter in Iowa. In addition, Marisia's restraining order
grants her temporary custody of the children and requires
Nicolo to pay child support. Marisia intends to file for
divorce, and she knows that Nicolo will "fight her
forever" for custody of the children. Once a custody
battle ensues, Marisia will not be able to leave the United
States to get her green card in Mexico. If she does leave,
she will risk losing custody of her children because she
will not be able to comply with any visitation orders while
she is out of the country. For these reasons, to be safe,
Marisia needs to obtain her green card in the U.S.
case originated California, moved to New Mexico, and is
currently in Iowa.
is a 30-year-old woman from Mexico. She entered the United
States with her parents at age 4. She attended school in
California, and in high school she began dating Simon, an
American citizen. When she was 18, Conchita became pregnant,
and she and Simon got married and dropped out of high
months after their marriage Simon became physically abusive.
He frequently punched, kicked, hit, and choked Conchita. He
was extremely controlling, and verbally and emotionally
abusive as well. If Conchita did not abide by Simon's
"rules," she was beaten. She was not allowed to
leave the house or yard alone; if Simon could not accompany
her, he would send one of his siblings. She could not even
walk to the corner to buy milk for her child. Simon isolated
Conchita from her family, and she was not allowed to visit
or call them. Her family did not try to make contact for
fear that Simon would attack them or beat Conchita.
and her family were unaware of her rights and options. She
did not want to have any more children, because she feared
bringing anyone else into this abusive situation. However,
Simon forbade her to take any contraceptive measures,
threatening to take their child away from her because she
was not a citizen. When Conchita became pregnant with her
second child, Simon began to get involved in drugs. This
made his violence worse, and she never knew what to expect
from him. Conchita was in despair, and her children were the
only reason for her to continue living. When she was seven
months pregnant with her third child, Simon found out that
Conchita's mother was secretly meeting with Conchita and
giving her money to buy food for the children. He became
enraged at Conchita, and pushed her onto the couch and sat
on her stomach, strangling her until she could not breathe.
1994, Conchita could not take any more abuse. One day while
Simon was out buying drugs, Conchita called her parents to
come get her and the children. She was able to hide from him
even though he harassed her friends and family. Conchita hid
in California and then took the children to New Mexico.
However, Simon tracked her down and found her in New Mexico,
where he continued to abuse and harass her. She obtained a
protective order and often had it enforced. Then Simon began
to stalk her, and he would break into the house while she
was gone to hide and attack her unexpectedly. He also began
abusing the children. Conchita and the children entered a
shelter in New Mexico, and then moved to Iowa to be with her
sister where her protection order continues to be
wants to become a lawful permanent resident of the United
States so that she can provide for her three children.
However, returning to Mexico for consular processing could
be extremely dangerous. Simon could track her down again,
this time in a place where her protective order could not be
enforced. Additionally, Conchita cannot afford a trip to
Mexico, especially with her three children. Yet if she
leaves the children behind, Simon could take them away or
abuse them further. Conchita came to the United States as a
young child, and her children are American citizens and half
Caucasian. There is no one in Mexico to provide them with
shelter or support, and they are unfamiliar with the
language and culture. Conchita must be able to receive her
green card within the United States in order to ensure the
safety and welfare of herself and her three children.
case originated in Iowa, moved to Kansas, and is currently
came to the United States from Mexico to visit her sister
and parents in Iowa. While there she met Antonio, a lawful
permanent resident. He was very respectful to her family's
traditions and asked her parents for permission to date her.
Tatiana had her visitor's visa extended, and she and Antonio
dated and eventually married.
after their marriage, Antonio became extremely abusive. When
Tatiana expressed her unhappiness, Antonio promised to
change and said he would kill himself if she left him. One
day she went to talk to her family at the restaurant they
owned, because she was considering leaving Antonio. While
she was there, Antonio came into the restaurant waving a
gun. He threatened to kill her family if she did not leave
that moment and go to live with him in Kansas. Naturally she
left with him. The police were unable to locate him.
behavior only worsened once they were in Kansas, especially
since he succeeded in isolating Tatiana from the world. He
would not allow her to call her family or talk to the
neighbors. She obeyed him out of fear for what he might do
to her. Tatiana became pregnant, but lost the baby when
Antonio threw her up against the wall during an argument.
After this incident, she escaped the apartment and called
her sister in Iowa. She returned to Iowa with her sister and
obtained a protective order against Antonio.
is now receiving counseling in Iowa, and looks forward to
living independently and supporting herself. However,
returning to Mexico to receive her green card would be
dangerous. Her protective order would not be valid there,
and Antonio could find her in Mexico and abuse her without
fear of legal repercussions. For her own safety, it is
necessary that Tatiana be permitted to remain in the United
States to become a lawful permanent resident.
case originated in Michigan.
is a 36-year-old mother of two. She is originally from
Nigeria. She met her first love, Martin, while he was
visiting family in Nigeria. Martin is a lawful permanent
resident of the United States. Martin and Yaa courted for a
long period of time, after which Martin persuaded Yaa to
marry him and join him in the United States. They married
according to the customary traditions in Nigeria. Following
their marriage, Martin assisted Yaa in obtaining a visitor
visa to come to the U.S. He promised to support Yaa in her
desire to further her education in the U.S. and to petition
for her residency. Yaa trusted her husband completely.
Yaa arrived in the United States, Martin took her passport
and assured her that everything would be fine. They
celebrated both court and church weddings in the U.S.
Immediately after the wedding, Yaa discovered that she was
pregnant. She wanted to go to school, but Martin refused to
let her go. Martin's behavior towards her seemed to be
changing before her eyes. He would not let her leave the
house alone for fear that other men might find her
attractive and "steal her away." In fact, he
refused to file immigration papers for Yaa and threatened
her with deportation if she ever dared disobey his orders.
began physically abusing Yaa after the birth of their first
child. He would slap her when she would question his
authority or inquire about her immigration status. He would
frequently spit on her if she refused to have sex with him.
He also used a hidden recording device to tape record all of
her telephone conversations. As a result, Yaa felt more and
more like a prisoner in her own home.
very severe incident of abuse occurred when Martin beat Yaa
with his fists and a bottle of alcohol. Yaa suffered such
severe facial injuries that she was rushed in an ambulance
to a local hospital for treatment. The police arrested
Martin and charged him with domestic violence. He was
prosecuted and convicted of this crime. Following this
conviction, Martin decided to punish Yaa by refusing to pay
the house mortgage or buy food and other necessities. He
also shut off the telephone and the gas. Yaa became
desperate and sought assistance from her best friend. She
moved out of her and Martin's home and found a job.
family in Nigeria dislikes Yaa and blames her for Martin's
arrest and conviction. They called Yaa from Nigeria and
threatened to have her deported because she "brought
shame" to the family. They also threatened to take her
children away from her. Despite all these threats, Yaa has
remained strong and sought legal counsel to help her file a
VAWA self-petition for residency. The petition has been
approved, and Yaa has received a permanent restraining order
clear that if Yaa is forced to return to Nigeria in order to
obtain lawful permanent residency under VAWA with her two
U.S. citizen children, she will face retribution from
Martin's family. They know where she lives in Nigeria, and
they have threatened to hurt her and kidnap the children.
Yaa would have to bring the children with her to Nigeria
because she has no family she can leave them with in the
U.S. She is very afraid that if she sets foot in Nigeria,
Martin's family will cause her great bodily harm and may
even kill her.
case originated in Illinois and is currently in Michigan.
is originally from Mexico. She met Rafael, a lawful
permanent resident of the United States, who was originally
from Mexico. They began to live together in Illinois, then
Rafael was transferred to Michigan by his employer. Beatriz
discovered she was pregnant and Rafael invited her to join
him in Michigan, where they were married.
relationship was not always a physically violent one,
although Rafael would often insult or yell at Beatriz in
front of other people. Only two days after they married,
though, he told her he would not help her with her
immigration papers. He said he preferred to use her unlawful
immigration status as an insurance measure, so that Beatriz
would not be tempted to leave him. He often threatened to
call the INS and have her deported if she ever left him.
the early months of their marriage, Rafael would slap
Beatriz when he became angry with her. On one occasion, when
Beatriz confronted Rafael about an affair she suspected he
was having, he shoved her so hard, she fell out of bed. She
was six months pregnant at the time. Other times, Rafael
would get drunk and pull Beatriz's hair and punch her in the
three weeks after their son was born, Rafael came home very
late and began hitting and shouting at Beatriz. She ran out
of the apartment building, and Rafael followed her, trying
to force her back inside the building. Rafael pushed her
down, and she fell, scraping her knees and elbows. Finally,
a neighbor called the police, and Rafael was jailed for the
night. Beatriz was taken to the hospital for treatment of
her injuries. The next morning, when Rafael was released
from jail, he violated the court's stay away order and
returned home to Beatriz. Although she did not want him at
home, she was so frightened of what he might do to her that
she could not ask him to leave. Later, when Rafael had to
appear in court to answer charges of domestic violence, he
threatened to kill Beatriz and take their son away from her
unless she told the judge that she wanted Rafael to return
home. The judge did not speak Spanish and Beatriz did not
speak English, and there was no translator, so the judge
allowed Rafael to translate. Beatriz had no independent way
to communicate with the judge and was terrified to do
anything but agree that she wanted him back. Beatriz told
the judge exactly that, and Rafael returned home to continue
his abuse of Beatriz.
after this incident, Beatriz made a trip to Mexico with
their son to have him baptized. Rafael came with them. When
Rafael had to return to his job in the U.S., he promised to
send Beatriz money and come back for her and the baby in a
month or two. After a while, he stopped sending money, and
when Beatriz called him, he said that he did not want her to
return to the U.S. Beatriz and the baby were left stranded,
without money or food, in Mexico. A cousin in Illinois
offered to take Beatriz and the baby in, and thus they
re-entered the U.S.
Beatriz is forced to return to Mexico to get her green card
under VAWA, she will lose access to the mental health
counseling she is currently receiving. Beatriz desperately
needs regular sessions of counseling in order to help her
understand and cope with the severe physical and emotional
abuse she endured in her marriage to Rafael. Mexico has no
such mental health services for battered women. In addition,
Beatriz is the sole caretaker of her U.S. citizen son. If
she leaves for Mexico, she will lose her job, and she will
not be able to support her child or make enough money for
the trip back to the United States. Further, Beatriz fears
that traveling again to Mexico for even a short time to get
her green card will be harmful to her son. When they were in
Mexico, her son had severe gastrointestinal problems due to
the food and water that the doctors could never fully treat.
Beatriz should be allowed to stay in the United States to
adjust her residency status, so that she may continue to
strengthen her mental health, protect her son's health, and
build a new life of her own, free from Rafael's control and
case originated California and is currently in Utah.
originally from Mexico, met Milton in California. Milton is
an American citizen from Utah who was working at a religious
mission in California when he met Milagros. The two became
friends, began dating, and eventually became engaged. They
were married in Utah in April of 1998.
the way home from their honeymoon, the couple was in a
terrible car accident. Milton was not seriously injured, but
Milagros suffered severe injuries to her spine, knee, ankle,
and face. She underwent an operation and was incapacitated
for a time. She had a difficult time taking care of herself
while Milton was at work all day, unable to perform such
tasks as bathing and preparing food. When Milton arrived
home at night, he ignored Milagros and would not even talk
to her. He often came home drunk. Milagros soon discovered
that Milton had a drug and alcohol problem.
began to resent Milagros for her injuries, complaining that
she used up too much electricity, water, food, and gas
without making a financial contribution to the household.
Milagros was physically unable to work, but Milton showed no
signs of sympathy for her condition. One night, Milton came
home drunk and began to argue with Milagros about finances.
He became furious with Milagros and hit her. After this
incident, Milagros informed Milton's parents that he was
abusing drugs and alcohol and that he had hit her. His
parents talked with him about his problems, but he became
only more enraged at Milagros for telling them.
began to hit Milagros more frequently. In July of 1998,
Milagros's physical therapist noticed extensive bruising on
Milagros's arm. The therapist urged her to call the police,
but she was too afraid that Milton would have her deported.
Milagros knew that if she were deported, she could not get
the medical attention she needed.
night in August, Milton began verbally abusing Milagros.
Milagros left the apartment to give Milton the opportunity
to calm down, but his temper was no better when she
returned. She tried to use the phone, but Milton promptly
disconnected the line. When she tried to leave again, Milton
took her shoes from her and threw them away. Milagros began
to cry, but this only further angered Milton. He threw her
down on the bed and slapped her face repeatedly, and then
threw water on her. Milagros again tried to leave,
determined to get help. Milton then grabbed her by the hair
and pulled her back, and grabbed her backpack and threw it
to the floor. Eventually, she was able to call a friend for
help, and she reported Milton's behavior to the police.
has since separated from Milton, and has filed a VAWA
self-petition for residency. However, returning to Mexico
for consular processing would be detrimental to her health
and safety. Milton could follow Milagros to Mexico, where he
could abuse her without legal consequences. Also, in Mexico,
Milagros would not have access to the advanced medical care
she needs to recover from her severe injuries. Her family in
Mexico is not able to support her, and she would not be able
to get a job there because of her disabilities. For these
reasons, Milagros must be permitted to remain in the United
States to receive her green card.
case originated in Florida.
originally from Honduras, traveled to Florida six years ago
to visit her aunt. Peter, an American citizen, was newly
divorced and renting a room in her aunt's house. The two
began spending time together and soon moved in together.
They were married four years later.
couple's problems began when Felicia first discovered she
was pregnant. Peter did not want her to have the child, and
ordered her to have an abortion. Felicia refused, and Peter
hit her and then forced her to have sex with him. Felicia
was three months pregnant at the time. The next month, Peter
took her to an abortion clinic, but she protested. She said
she wanted to have the child, and if Peter did not, he could
accepted this, but he did not leave. Instead, he began to
resent Felicia, and frequently hit and insulted her for no
reason, often in front of other people. He found fault in
everything Felicia did, especially in her cooking. Peter
also refused to let her leave the house, even though he
routinely stayed out until 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. Even after the
baby was born, Peter ignored his family and continued to go
out every night.
Peter physically abused Felicia from the beginning of the
relationship, she was afraid to say or do anything about it
at first. However, she realized she could not continue to
tolerate the abuse when she observed its effects on her son
Justin. He cried a lot, often retreating to hide in the
corner, trembling and sobbing. Felicia began to call the
police when Peter abused her, and the neighbors also called
the police when they heard fighting.
police were called during one incident in December of 1993,
when Peter became jealous of a male neighbor he thought was
interested in Felicia. He punched Felicia in the chest and
arms with his fists, and bit her right arm. A neighbor
overheard the noise and called the police, but Felicia asked
them not to arrest Peter. During another incident in 1995,
Peter became enraged and pushed Felicia against a wall,
breaking her nose in two places. Felicia ran out into the
street covered in blood, and someone outside called for an
ambulance. The next month Peter beat Felicia again, first
grabbing her hair and banging her head against the wall.
Then he hit her, kicked her, and punched her in the face,
causing her nose to bleed. Incidents such as these were
frequent throughout Peter and Felicia's relationship.
one evening in September of 1997, Peter was drunk when
Felicia got home from work. He insulted her and screamed at
her, and told her to hand over the car keys because the car
was in his name. While Felicia had paid for part of the car,
Peter would not let her use it, even if she had to go to
work or to Justin's school. Felicia slept in Justin's room
that night and locked the door. Peter tried to force the
door open with a knife but did not succeed. The next
morning, Justin awoke before Felicia and opened the door to
his room. At that moment, Peter ran and kicked the door open
completely, and then began to struggle with Felicia. He
grabbed her wallet and removed the money from it, and then
grabbed her hand and bent her long nails all the way back.
Felicia's nails all broke and were bleeding profusely. Peter
then grabbed her by the neck and said he was going to kill
her. Felicia got loose and went into the other room to call
the police, but Peter came after her and grabbed the
telephone out of her hands, throwing it to the floor. He
then took her beeper and threw it to the floor as well,
where it broke into many pieces. Felicia quickly picked up
Justin, who was yelling and crying, and called out to people
on the street to call the police. She then got dressed and
left, taking Justin, and went to stay at a friend's house.
decided she could not tolerate any more abuse and refused to
move back to the house. When she returned briefly to
retrieve her belongings, Peter insulted her and tried to hit
her. He began to call her at her friend's house, insulting
and threatening her over the phone. In October, he showed up
at Justin's babysitter's house and cursed and threatened
Felicia there. He said he was going to crash his car into
Felicia's. A few weeks later he showed up there again and
began to argue with Felicia. He again pulled her nails back,
making them break and bleed. He also threatened to shoot
Felicia. When she called the police, he fled. Felicia was
frightened by his threats and obtained a restraining order
against him. The restraining order made Peter even more
livid. Shortly after it was filed, Felicia found that the
passenger window of her car had been smashed while she was
at work. Two days later, the rear window had been broken.
next month, Felicia noticed that Peter was following her
while she was shopping. She told him to leave her alone, but
he kept following her. Finally, she left the store to get
away from him. While she was opening the car door, Peter
grabbed her hair and pulled on it. He began to punch her on
the face and body, and he bit her on the left arm. A
bystander called the police, and they arrived and arrested
Peter. Felicia was taken to the hospital and treated for
head trauma and face contusions.
has filed a self-petition but is afraid because returning to
Honduras for consular processing would be extremely
dangerous. Peter is enraged over her restraining order.
Despite the order, Peter has kept stalking her. Only Peter's
arrest has offered any relief. Felicia fears that Peter will
continue stalking her and follow her to Honduras where the
order would not be valid. The law in Honduras would not
protect her from Peter's abuses. Felicia also faces the
hardship of the trip's expense, especially if she took
Justin along. However, if she left him behind, Peter could
obtain full custody of him in her absence. Felicia must be
permitted to remain in this country to obtain her green
card, and must not be forced to return to Honduras for any
case originated in Florida.
is a 41-year-old Costa Rican national. She arrived with a
visitor's visa to the United States in 1983. In 1984, she
met Denis, a lawful permanent resident of the United States
from Costa Rica, and later moved in with him. Emilia had two
children from previous relationships, one of which was a
United States citizen. She had two more children in America
with Denis. After nine years of living with Denis, Emilia
married him in 1993.
they separated, but in 1996 they decided to move in together
again and give the relationship another try. Denis insisted
that Emilia and the children move into his neighborhood,
away from their schools and friends. He was very jealous,
and wanted to isolate Emilia from her social circle. Denis
did not permit Emilia to have any male friends or to smile
at or greet any man, including the neighbors.
was especially jealous of the boyfriend of Emilia's oldest
daughter Janet. He frequently visited their home to see
Janet, and Emilia would often entertain him if Janet had not
arrived yet. One day, after he had called looking for Janet
and had spoken with Emilia, Denis became furious with Emilia
and accused her of having an affair with this young man. He
called the young man and told him never to return to their
house or call again. He told him he did not want his wife
talking to other men. Then he came into the bedroom to find
Emilia and began yelling at her. He grabbed her by the
throat and poked her hard in the eye. Emilia called the
police, and Denis waited for them because he didn't think he
did anything warranting an arrest. However, the police saw
evidence of Emilia's injuries and arrested him.
incident occurred on Halloween in 1997. Denis had lost his
job, and Emilia did not have money to buy her son a
Halloween costume. She was able to borrow some money from a
neighbor, however. That morning at 7:00 a.m. Emilia's pager
sounded, and Denis demanded to know who was calling her.
Emilia did not recognize the number, and when she called it
she discovered it was the neighbor from whom she borrowed
the money. Denis was enraged, and grabbed the phone from
Emilia, shouting at the neighbor that he better come and
pick up Emilia because she would no longer have a place to
stay. He then slammed the phone down and accused Emilia of
having an affair with the neighbor. When she denied it, he
became livid and grabbed her. Denis slapped Emilia and
banged her head against the wall. Their three-year-old son
Alex watched everything in terror. Emilia went to call the
police, but Denis blocked her access to the phone.
Determined, Emilia took Alex and walked to the police
station. Denis was fearful of being arrested and followed
her. He told the police he did not hit Emilia and there were
no marks to prove it. An officer then asked Alex if he saw
his dad hit his mom. Alex said yes, and Denis was arrested.
eventually obtained a protective order against her husband,
and has separated from him. However, if Emilia is required
to return to Costa Rica to legalize her status, she will
again face danger. The protective order she has against her
husband will not be valid in Costa Rica, and Denis, who is
also from Costa Rica, can easily travel there. If Denis
follows Emilia there, she will not be protected by the law.
Denis could try to harm her again, and this time perhaps
kill her. She has no support system in Costa Rica to aid her
financially, and could not afford the journey or the stay,
especially with her children. Yet, it is not an option for
Emilia to leave them behind, as Denis could kidnap them or
try to obtain custody of them in her absence. Emilia must
not be required to return to Costa Rica for any reason, and
must be allowed to remain in this country under the
protection of American law.
case originated in Texas and is currently in Florida.
is a 23-year-old woman from Mexico. She entered the United
States in December of 1992, and met Timothy, an American
citizen, in 1994. The two were introduced by Veronica's
employer in Texas, and began dating. Although they were busy
working, Veronica and Timothy spent most of their free time
together enjoying various activities. Veronica got to know
Timothy's family well, and was quite comfortable around
them. Timothy never showed signs of anger or violence at
this stage, but he was always jealous and did not trust
Veronica at all.
couple moved in together in July of 1995, and Veronica soon
realized she was pregnant. When she was seven months
pregnant, Timothy began to argue with her. He became furious
and kicked Veronica out of the house, literally throwing her
out on the street. She had nowhere to go, and turned to her
employer, who gave her a place to stay. Three days later,
Timothy tracked Veronica down and asked her for $100 to buy
a refrigerator. After that, he apologized for kicking her
out of the house. Veronica was pregnant and alone, and
returned to Timothy out of desperation.
soon began threatening to report Veronica to immigration.
His family joined in as well, constantly insulting and
humiliating Veronica about her immigration status. They told
her to get out of the country, and became especially hostile
whenever they saw Veronica with something she bought.
Timothy's father was adamant in his threats against
Veronica, always shouting at her that she had better not
hurt his son.
behavior continued for the next two months, until Veronica
gave birth to twins. She had medical complications in
childbirth, and as a result will be unable to bear more
children. No one accompanied her to the hospital to give
birth, or came to visit her during her stay. Once she was
discharged, she went to stay with a friend. A week later,
Timothy learned she had given birth and came looking for
her, demanding to see the children. When Veronica expressed
outrage at his behavior, he promised to change and insisted
they get back together. Again, Veronica felt she had no
other options and returned to live with Timothy. Timothy
began taking his little girl out frequently, showing her to
all his family and friends. However, he ignored the male
twin. He insisted the boy was not his, and would not believe
Veronica when she explained the children were twins.
would not allow Veronica to work, nor would he give her any
money. Veronica was forced to sell many of her belongings to
have money for necessities. He began to prevent her from
socializing and making friends, and she was quite lonely.
She was only allowed to see Timothy and his family, all of
whom were cold and rude to her.
February of 1997, Timothy awoke in the morning enraged at
Veronica. He had been using drugs the night before and was
still under their influence. Veronica was making breakfast
when their little girl began to cry. Timothy shouted for
Veronica to quiet the baby. Then out of nowhere, he grabbed
Veronica and started hitting her in the head. He always hit
her on the head because he said that if she tried to go to
the police, her hair would cover the bruises. He said he
would then tell the police she was a crazy illegal and try
to get her deported.
that day, Timothy began to hit Veronica again, all over her
body. He also bit her neck, which caused severe bruising,
looking as if she had been hung with a rope. He then grabbed
her by the hair. Veronica insisted that he let go of her,
and he did. But he threatened to kill her and take away the
children, and never allow her to see them again. He grabbed
the children and took them to his mother's house, warning
Veronica that if she called the police they would arrest her
and deport her, and she would never see the children again.
That evening, Timothy returned but left the children with
his family. Veronica was in excruciating pain from the
earlier beatings, and could barely talk or move. However,
Timothy made a sexual advance on her, and then pried her
legs apart and forced her to have sex with him. Veronica did
not protest because she was terrified that he would start
hitting her again.
May of 1997, Timothy took Veronica to a movie, but got angry
with her while they were there. He left her outside the
theater, and although she was very far away, she had no
choice but to walk home. When she finally got back to the
apartment, Timothy refused to let her in. He gave her their
son, saying he was only interested in keeping their
daughter. Tired and defeated, Veronica sat on the doorstep
and cried. Timothy yelled for her to take the boy and go
away, but she had nowhere to go. Her son was crying and
asking her for food, but she had nothing. Having been
prevented from making any friends, Veronica had no one to
turn to, and she and her son spent the night in a park. The
next day Veronica went to Timothy's aunt for help, but she
turned Veronica away.
went to live in a shelter, eventually with both of her
children. However, in December Timothy took the children.
Veronica was desperate, but could not find them. In January,
Timothy contacted Veronica and told her that if she wanted
to see the children, she had to get back together with him.
Veronica pleaded with Timothy to bring the children back to
her, and threatened to involve the police. Timothy said the
police could do nothing, because he had taken the children
out of the country. He made Veronica agree not to tell
anyone he had brought the children to Mexico, and in
exchange, he would allow her to see them again on condition
that she got back together with him. Veronica had no choice
but to agree.
after the family was reunited, they moved to Florida and
stayed in a homeless shelter. Timothy worked at night, and
began to arrive home drunk and under the influence of drugs.
He always woke Veronica up when he got home, and one night
he began to yell at her. He told her she was crazy, and
grabbed her, pulling her over to the door. Veronica was
holding one of the children, and so Timothy could not hurt
her and left. Later he apologized and promised to change,
and said he wanted to marry Veronica to formalize their
they were married, the shelter enrolled Veronica in an
English class, but Timothy said it was a crazy and
unnecessary idea. He told her that if she wanted to continue
being his wife, she should simply ask him everything because
he had all the answers. One morning, Veronica told Timothy
she planned to start English classes that day. He
immediately went after her and grabbed her by the hair. He
hit her on the top of the head, screaming at Veronica that
she should not even think about taking the classes. The
social workers at the shelter overheard the abuse and helped
Veronica enter a battered women's shelter.
is now learning to survive on her own, she has filed a
self-petition and wishes to create a safe and secure life
for herself and the children in the United States. In order
for her to become a lawful permanent resident, Veronica
would have to face the danger of returning to Mexico for
consular processing. Her primary fear is that Timothy would
find her there. He had taken the children to Mexico to force
her to return to him in the past and he has hunted her down
and found her so many times before. He could physically
abuse her there without legal consequences, and Veronica
believes he may even try to kill her. Furthermore, he could
easily take the children from her while they were in Mexico.
He has taken them before, and is determined to do it again.
If Veronica were able to remain in the United States to
obtain her green card, she would have the consistent
protection of American law enforcement against Timothy's
violence and threats. For this reason, Veronica must not be
required to return to Mexico for any reason.
case originated in Massachusetts.
is a native of Poland who entered the United States in 1993
on a visitor's visa with her first husband Darius, also a
native of Poland. After visiting family members in
Massachusetts, Darius and Mona decided to stay in the U.S.
In late 1993, Mona had her first child, Nora, who is a U.S.
citizen and now five years old.
Darius had exhibited an explosive temper prior to their
marriage, it was nothing compared to the violence he
unleashed upon Mona after they came to the U.S. During her
pregnancy with Nora, Mona endured much abuse at the hands of
Darius. He would push her out of bed and shove her to the
floor. He also began slapping her when he would get angry,
often pushing her to the floor and sitting on her chest or
strangling her. His abuse ended with an incident in early
1995, when he fractured several of her fingers, leading her
to get a restraining order and divorce him later that year.
her divorce, Mona stayed with her family members in the U.S.
Her family and friends provided her with strong emotional
and financial support during this difficult time. Sometime
in 1996, with her family's encouragement, Mona began to date
Ronald. Ronald was a lawful permanent resident of the United
States and also a native of Poland. Mona and Ronald fell and
love and were married in 1997. In early 1998, they moved in
together after Ronald found a job in the community where
Mona was living.
immediately after they moved in together, Mona's new husband
began to insult, swear, and yell at Mona's daughter, Nora.
He began to drink heavily, and when he did, he would behave
extremely inappropriately in front of little Nora. He would
watch pornographic videos and look at pornographic
photographs from the Internet in the child's presence. Mona
was very upset about Ronald's behavior, and when she
confronted him about it, he would respond by screaming at
Mona and frightening her with his verbal abuse.
months later, Mona became pregnant with Ronald's child.
Ronald tried to force her to have an abortion, but Mona
refused. This only made Ronald more uncontrollable and
angry. Only a couple of months later, Ronald became violent
during an argument and grabbed Mona by the throat. He tried
to strangle her to death, and Mona struggled against his
hands as they crushed her windpipe. She fought for her and
her unborn baby's lives and finally managed to free herself
from Ronald's grasp and call the police. Her husband was
later arrested and convicted of assault and battery, and
Mona obtained a restraining order against him.
then, Mona and her daughter have moved out of the house and
are staying with close family and friends. Mona has been
receiving counseling for the past seven months to help her
recover from the horror of being abused by her husband. She
has also filed a VAWA self-petition for permanent residence
and has obtained a referral to a family law attorney who is
assisting her in obtaining custody of her two U.S. citizen
children and a divorce from her abusive husband.
Mona's priority date becomes current, she will be required
to return to Poland as the only way of getting her green
card under VAWA. If Mona is forced to return to Poland, she
will face great danger and also the possibility of losing
custody of her children. Mona is very afraid that her
ex-husband Darius or her husband Ronald will follow her to
Poland and abuse her there. She has restraining orders
protecting her against both Darius and Ronald, but these
restraining orders would not be valid outside the United
States. Darius has already threatened to follow Mona to
Poland and hurt or kill her when she arrives. Mona believes
his threats and knows that he will have an easy time harming
her in Poland because she has no family, friends, or
restraining order to protect her from his violence in that
country. Furthermore, Mona's current husband, Ronald is
facing a domestic violence conviction which is a deportable
offense. It is therefore highly likely that he will be
deported to Poland in the near future. If this happens when
Mona is in Poland getting her green card, she will face the
threat of Ronald stalking her and taking his revenge on her
for reporting the assault that led to his deportation. Mona
knows that he is very angry at her and fears that he will
kill her if she returns to Poland.
other reason why Mona must not return to Poland to get her
green card is because her children's custody is still at
issue. Mona simply cannot leave the country while the matter
of the children's custody is in dispute; otherwise, she will
face losing custody of her two children. Considering all the
emotional trauma Mona has suffered at the hands of her
ex-husband and current husband, it is also clear that being
separated from her young children for the time it takes to
get her green card will cause Mona great emotional distress.
She could be separated from them for a potentially long
period of time while she is getting her green card. This
will be detrimental to both Mona and the children, since the
children rely upon Mona as their sole caretaker. Coupling
this fact with the added threat of physical violence Mona
faces at the hands of Darius and Ronald in Poland, Mona must
be allowed to adjust her residency status in the United
case originated in Massachusetts.
is a 20-year-old native of Guyana. She entered the United
States for the first time when she was thirteen years old to
visit her aunt. She later began attending school in the
U.S., where at the age of sixteen she met Felix. Felix was a
native of Guatemala and lawful permanent resident of the
United States. The two began dating and became girlfriend
and boyfriend. Felix proposed to Sonya the following year,
and they were married the next month.
their wedding, Sonya began to realize that there were many
things she did not know about Felix. First of all, he began
to bring his friends over to the house to drink and use
drugs until the early morning hours. Seeing Felix and his
friends drunk and high on drugs made Sonya upset and
frightened, especially since Felix would become aggressive
and verbally abusive toward her at these times. When Sonya
became pregnant a few months later, Felix became
irrationally jealous and began accusing her of having
relationships with other men. He would become angry with her
and push her across the room with great force. On one
occasion, he pushed her backward when she was several months
pregnant, and her pregnant belly crashed into the side of
the bed frame. Although the baby was not hurt after that
incident, Sonya became afraid of Felix and considered
the birth of their daughter, Katrina, Felix continued his
abuse of Sonya, screaming and yelling at her whenever he
would get drunk or angry. He began having an affair with
another woman, whom he brought into the family home. It was
not until May of 1997 that Sonya contacted a school teacher
of hers for help. Felix had threatened her life during an
argument, and Sonya feared that he would kill her. She
called the police and received a restraining order against
Felix. She then left him and went to live with her family.
months later, Felix begged her to take him back and give him
another chance. She hoped that he had learned his lesson and
had changed his behavior, so she moved in with him again.
Unfortunately, he had not changed at all. He punched Sonya
in the chest when he became angry and jealous one evening.
Sonya moved out immediately and consulted an attorney who
helped her file a VAWA self-petition for residency.
her decision to separate from her husband, Sonya also felt
it was important for her daughter to maintain a relationship
with him. Sonya arranged for Felix and Katrina to have
weekend visits. Sonya reconsidered this visitation in July
1998 after Felix pushed Sonya to the ground and threatened
to kill her after dropping their daughter off at Sonya's
house. In the fall of 1998, Sonya was forced to cut off
these visits entirely after Felix attacked her when he came
to pick up Katrina. Sonya had asked a male friend to escort
her and protect her when she went to pick up her daughter
after Felix's visitation session. When Sonya and her friend
approached Felix, he lunged at both of them with a knife,
slicing Sonya's neck and slashing her friend's face. Both
Sonya and her friend had to be rushed to the hospital, and
Sonya nearly died from the severe wound and bleeding from
her neck. Sonya is now cooperating with state prosecutors to
convict Felix of attempted murder for that attack. He will
be deported following this conviction.
result of her traumatic experiences during her marriage to
Felix, Sonya has been receiving counseling services from a
domestic violence service agency. She is trying her best to
raise her daughter on her own and complete her own
schooling. She has been receiving financial and emotional
help from her family, all of whom live in the U.S. If she
were forced to return to Guyana to get her green card
pursuant to VAWA, she would have no one there to help and
support her. She is very young and has not visited Guyana
since she was a little girl. She is unfamiliar with the
country, the language, and the laws of Guyana. After all the
emotional turmoil she has experienced in her life, she
cannot imagine how she would survive in Guyana without
support from her family. Furthermore, she is extremely
afraid that Felix will travel to Guyana and attempt to kill
her once he is deported. He has sworn revenge on Sonya, and
indeed he almost succeeded in killing her once before. In
Guyana, Sonya would be alone and unprotected, out of the
jurisdiction of her U.S. restraining order. She would be
vulnerable to Felix's attacks there, and her life would
constantly be in danger if she were forced to leave the U.S.
to get her green card.
case originated in Massachusetts.
is a 26-year-old citizen of Trinidad and Tobago. She entered
the United States in 1989 on a visitor's visa. After her
arrival, she met her husband, Ali, who was a friend of her
cousin. Ali is a lawful permanent resident of the U.S.
originally from Trinidad. Over the next year, Ali and Celia
became romantically involved. Ali proposed to Celia in late
1990, and in the spring of 1991, they moved in together.
they began living together, Ali began to manipulate and
control Celia's movements. He had not acted this way before,
and Celia was surprised at the change in him. He began to
stay out until the early morning hours and would yell at her
and insult her when she would inquire where he had been. He
would also become angry whenever Celia would want to spend
time with her family or friends. He preferred her to stay in
the house and visit no one. Whenever she would disobey his
orders or question his decisions, he would corner in a room
and scream at her, insulting her and calling her a slut. He
would also threaten to turn her in to the INS for her
evening, Celia confessed to Ali that she was so afraid of
him that she considered calling the police to arrest him for
abusing her. This made Ali so angry that he held a gun to
Celia's head and threatened to shoot her. On another
occasion, after a family party during which Celia refused to
speak to Ali, he drove her home and began yelling at her and
hitting her all over her body with his fists.
following year, Celia became pregnant with their son, Caleb.
She gave birth to Caleb in early 1993, hoping that the birth
of their child would make Ali change his ways and stop
abusing her. Unfortunately, Ali only became more violent. He
continued in his physical and emotional abuse of Celia,
yelling at her daily and calling her a whore. He also hit
her in the face once with the telephone receiver. Celia
would always forgive him when he would apologize after each
incident of abuse. She married him the following year mainly
because she wanted her son to have a father and a chance at
having a family.
the marriage, Ali began staying out all night. Celia thought
she smelled marijuana on his clothes when would come home,
and she also suspected that he was having an affair. When
she confronted him about this, he punched her in the eye in
front of their son. After this incident, Celia left Ali and
she and her son moved in with a family friend.
her separation from Ali, Celia has received support from her
friends, family, and a domestic violence counselor, all of
whom have helped her face and begin to recover from her
abusive experiences. Her son is now attending kindergarten
in the public school system. Celia has worked hard to build
a life for herself apart from Ali. Her VAWA self-petition
for residency was recently approved, and now she awaits her
the current laws, Celia will be forced to return to Trinidad
as the only way of getting her green card. Leaving the U.S.
will put Celia in great danger, since Ali has the ability to
travel to Trinidad and abuse her there, away from the
sanctions of U.S. laws and law enforcement. Ali has family
in Trinidad and is familiar with the country. By contrast,
Celia has no family or friends in Trinidad who can support
her or protect her from Ali's violence. She has not been
back to Trinidad since she was fifteen years old, and she is
very afraid of returning to a country that is completely
foreign to her. She would be physically and emotionally
unable to make the trip without help and resources in
Trinidad, none of which are available. Considering the fact
that Ali has threatened to kill Celia on several occasions,
Celia's return to Trinidad would put her at grave risk of
injury or death at the hands of her abuser.
case originated in Massachusetts.
is a nineteen-year-old citizen of Ethiopia who fled to the
United States in 1992 after her father was murdered in her
country. Donna's father was murdered because of his
association with a prominent political party in Ethiopia. In
1994, while staying with her family in New York, Donna met
Saul, who was a lawful permanent resident of the United
States and also a native of Ethiopia. Donna and Saul began
dating and seeing one another on weekends during the summer
months of 1994. At the end of the summer, Saul proposed to
Donna, and the two were married in December when Donna was
sixteen years old.
the wedding ceremony, Donna moved to Saul's home in
Massachusetts and began attending high school. During the
first year of their marriage, things were good between them.
However, during the second year of their marriage, Saul
began drinking and gradually began verbally abusing Donna.
He would yell at her and insult her when he would get drunk
and angry. He also began coming home later and later each
night, often forcing Donna to have sexual relations with him
against her will.
began controlling Donna, making her completely dependent on
him for money and telling her how to dress. He would also
accuse her of being involved with other men, and he would
push her against the wall and tell her to "shut
up," if she tried to defend herself. The abuse
escalated over time. Saul began pushing and shoving Donna
whenever he would get angry. One evening in 1996, he struck
her with the telephone, causing her severe injuries. She
left him after that incident.
leaving her husband, Donna has been living with a close
family member and has been receiving counseling as a victim
of domestic abuse. She is still very young, a recent
graduate of high school, and already she has suffered a
great deal in her life at the hands of her abusive husband.
She has filed a VAWA self-petition for residency, which was
approved in December of 1998.
Donna will be forced to return to Ethiopia to get her green
card under VAWA. She will face severe emotional trauma and
perhaps persecution and death if she returns. Because her
whole family fled Ethiopia after Donna's father was
murdered, Donna no longer has relatives or friends to rely
on in Ethiopia for help or support. She left when she was
only thirteen years old, and the painful memories of her
father's murder would resurface in her mind if she were
forced to return to Ethiopia. In addition, she is young and
unable to find her way around Ethiopia on her own. She is
unfamiliar with the language and customs of Ethiopia, since
she has spent so many years growing up in America.
assassins who killed Donna's father may still be looking for
Donna and members of her family. Because of this, Donna is
very frightened of returning to the place where she and her
family fled political persecution only a few years before.
She firmly believes that her father's political enemies
would relish the opportunity to harm or kill her if she
returned unprotected to Ethiopia. Donna is physically and
emotionally unable to endure the pain and fear of returning
to a country that is foreign to her, especially after the
abuse she has endured for the past three years at her
husband's hands. She needs the support and protection of her
family in the U.S., and she needs to continue the domestic
violence counseling she is currently receiving in
Massachusetts. For all of these reasons, Donna must be
granted the opportunity to obtain her green card within the
case originated in Delaware, moved to Pennsylvania, and is
currently in Delaware.
is a 22-year-old citizen of Mexico. She was married to Leo,
a lawful permanent resident of the United States, for seven
years. Leo is also originally from Mexico. Teresa and Leo
met and fell in love in the United States when they were
both very young. Teresa was 15 years old at the time she
gave birth to their first child, a little girl named Beth.
held all the power in the relationship. He isolated Teresa
from her own family by refusing to let her contact them. He
did not allow her to leave the house on her own or make
friends. He refused to install a telephone in their home.
The situation gradually worsened as Leo stayed away from
home for long periods of time, only coming to the house with
food or money every once in a while.
with this emotional abuse, Leo also subjected Teresa to
brutal physical abuse throughout their marriage. Leo was an
alcoholic who would go into unpredictable rages. He would
kick, punch, slap, and pummel Teresa without cause. Leo
continued to beat Teresa severely, even when she was
pregnant with their second child, Ana. Leo blamed Teresa
when Ana was born with a cleft palate, and he subjected
Teresa to abuse and humiliation as punishment for Ana's
disability. To make matters worse, Leo refused to take
Teresa and Ana to doctor's appointments to treat Ana's cleft
palate. He also began physically abusing both Ana and her
sister Beth, much to Teresa's horror.
attempted to leave Leo twice. Both times she fled with her
girls to battered women's shelters. Both times Leo followed
Teresa, found her, and forced her to return home with him.
Leo even crossed state lines to follow Teresa to a shelter
in Pennsylvania the second time she tried to escape his
abuse. Teresa left Leo for the final time after she sought
help and advice from a shelter and from legal counsel. She
submitted her application for residency under VAWA and filed
for divorce from Leo. Soon after he was served with divorce
papers, Leo disappeared from Delaware and has not attempted
to contact Teresa since that time.
is the sole custodian and caretaker of both of her U.S.
citizen daughters. Both children are little girls under the
age of seven. Teresa has no one else to rely on in the U.S.
to help her support and raise her daughters.
Teresa is required to return to Mexico as the only way to
get her green card under VAWA, her daughter Ana will suffer
extreme medical hardship and trauma. Ana must undergo a
series of complicated operations to her teeth, jawbones, and
mouth in order to correct her cleft palate. She must also
undergo several plastic surgeries following these
procedures. Although Ana is a citizen, these surgeries are
not entirely paid for by Medicaid. Luckily, Teresa has
secured several donations from charitable organizations to
help cover the cost of Ana's operations. Ana has already had
one operation on her teeth and jaws, and she requires
extensive follow-up examinations and care in between each
Teresa returns to Mexico to get her green card, she will be
forced to interrupt Ana's medical treatment and take both of
her daughters with her to Mexico. Interrupting Ana's medical
treatment would be detrimental to Ana's health. The
treatments are not available in Mexico. Also, if Ana
abandons her current medical regime, even for a short time,
she will probably lose the privately donated funds to cover
the cost of her medical care. These funds were extremely
difficult to obtain, and once lost, they will be
irretrievable. Requiring Teresa to return to Mexico to get
her green card is tantamount to discontinuing her daughter's
medical treatment and subjecting the child to a life of pain
case originated in Indiana.
was born in Mexico. She has lived in the United States for
the past eight years, and she has two children, both U.S.
citizens. Three years ago, Consuelo met her U.S. citizen
husband, Jake, and the two started dating and becoming
friends. They soon fell in love and were married. Consuelo
was excited about beginning her life with her new husband.
She did not know that Jake had hidden from her the fact that
he was addicted to marijuana and alcohol.
drug and alcohol addiction became evident after he and
Consuelo were married. She witnessed him spending all of
their money to buy drugs and alcohol, and he would not give
Consuelo money to buy food and clothes. He kept her locked
in the apartment all day and refused to apply for her
immigration status so that she could get a job. Jake, on the
other hand, was fired from job after job because of his drug
addiction. After their first child, Nick, was born, there
was never enough food in the house to feed the family. Jake
completely ignored Consuelo and even refused to take her to
the store to get food.
day, when Nick was a year old and Consuelo was three months
pregnant with their second child, Jake agreed to take
Consuelo to the grocery store to buy food. He gave her $40
and told her she was only allowed a few minutes to shop.
Once they were in the car, Jake became angry because the
baby was crying, and he told Consuelo that he would not take
them to the store after all. Consuelo begged him to take
her, since there was no food in the house. Jake refused and
grabbed the $40 back from Consuelo. He then began punching,
kicking, and shoving her, trying to knock her out of the car
through the open passenger-side door. Consuelo fell out of
the car onto the sidewalk, bruised and fearing for the
health of her unborn baby. Then Jake grabbed baby Nick from
the back seat and sat him on the sidewalk a few feet away
from Consuelo. Jake threw the baby's diaper bag out of the
window, scattering baby clothes and diapers all over the
street, and sped away in the car without looking back.
another occasion, Jake kidnaped Nick to punish Consuelo for
accepting money from her sister. He left with the child and
did not bring him back for the entire day. Consuelo was
frantic, wondering if she would ever see her baby again.
Only a few months later, when Consuelo was eight months
pregnant with her second child, Jake sold all the furniture
and baby toys to buy drugs. The house was completely empty
after Jake left with the last piece of furniture and the
television set. There was also no food in the house. At that
moment, Consuelo decided to leave Jake. She feared for her
and her child's safety, since Jake was unpredictable and
violent when on drugs and had been hitting and insulting her
on a regular basis. She fled to her sister's house and found
an attorney to help her file a VAWA self-petition for
Consuelo is forced to return to Mexico to get her green card
under VAWA, she will risk losing her children. Jake has
already filed for custody of the two little boys and has
threatened to take them away from her permanently. There is
a court date scheduled in the near future, and Consuelo
cannot remove the children from the country while custody is
in dispute. Once custody has been decided, Consuelo can only
take the children with her with the court's permission, and
since there is no way to predict how long she will be
required to remain in Mexico while her green card is
processed, she cannot guarantee to the judge a date by which
she will return. She refuses to leave the children behind,
though, because she fears that Jake will kidnap them and
mistreat them or tell the court that she has abandoned them
to his care. He has already kidnaped Nick once before. He
has never been responsible for caring for the children in
the past, and his drug and alcohol use poses a grave danger
to them. He has absolutely no patience with either of the
children and frequently screams at them and punishes them
for no reason. Even if Consuelo were able to afford the trip
to Mexico, she could not risk leaving her children behind
and losing them to her abuser forever.
case originated in Pennsylvania.
was born in Lithuania. Her husband Sam is a U.S. citizen.
Sam and Ugne were "penpals". They began writing
each other in 1993. They seemed to have a lot of interests
in common. Sam was in the Navy and lived in Nevada. Ugne had
her own beauty salon. By 1994 Margie's English had improved
to the point where they could converse on the phone. They
enjoyed their talks. Sam said he wanted to meet Ugne in
person and visited Ugne in Lithuania in 1995. They had a
wonderful time. Sam told Ugne he liked her independence and
the fact she owned her own business. Sam asked Ugne to visit
him in the United States for her birthday and she agreed to.
In September, 1995 Ugne came to visit Sam. They had a good
time and Sam asked Ugne to marry him. She wanted to wait to
get to know him better and they agreed to wait. Six months
later in May of 1996 they were married in Reno, Nevada.
day after they were married, Sam lost his temper and began
screaming at Ugne. Ugne went into the kitchen, and Sam
followed her there. There he screamed at her and tore her
pajamas. He then pushed her against the wall, crossed her
wrists together, and held her so tightly she could not move.
When she wouldn't stop crying, he pressed his hand against
her windpipe barely allowing her to breath. Ugne knew he had
gone through Navy training and could kill her if he wanted
to. Sam took his finger away after two full minutes, and
Ugne cried for the rest of the night. The next day, Sam
apologized and promised never to do it again.
time, Ugne and Sam began having more disagreements and
arguments. Sam often ignored Ugne or was inconsiderate to
her, and he allowed to his friends to disrespect her as
well. He cared little for her needs, even refusing to take
her to the doctor. Ugne sought to go to marriage counseling
but Sam refused. Several times after an argument Sam would
go into the living room and sit quietly holding a gun. At
those times, Ugne was afraid to move or breathe because she
feared that she would anger him further and her would feel
justified in using the gun. Ugne felt isolated. Not knowing
English well and not working, she was totally dependent on
Sam. Once during an argument, while they were in the car
traveling to Reno on the way home from a trip, Sam
threatened to drive them both of them off a cliff. When they
finally got to Reno, Ugne jumped out of the car and hid in
the bathroom of a restaurant. She decided to look for the
police to get help but ran into Sam as she came out of the
restaurant. He was crying and apologized and once again Ugne
forgave him. But the abuse continued.
a later argument, Ugne tried to talk to Sam about the
problems in their marriage. In response, Sam grew angry and
accused Ugne of playing head games with him. Then he became
violent again. Sam grabbed Ugne from the sofa and threw her
through the door into the wall, and she landed on the
ground. Ugne spent the night in a hotel. The next day Sam
picked her up at work and apologized.
1997 Sam decided to leave the Navy, and they moved to
Philadelphia so that Sam could take a job there. As they
approached Philadelphia, they started to argue in the car.
Ugne felt trapped and vulnerable. She got out of the car,
but Sam got out and followed her, screaming at her to get
back in. Then Sam tried to physically force Ugne back into
the car and she attempted to fight him off. He dragged her
away from the car toward some trash cans behind a building.
There was no one around, and Sam held her with enormous
force, bruising her arms and wrists.
March they had a fight in their new apartment. Sam decided
to "punish" Ugne and would not let her sleep in
the bed. Ugne then lay down on the floor, but he lifted her
up and pushed her. He then grabbed her and threw her on the
floor. Ugne pleaded for Sam not to touch her, but he shouted
that she was his wife, that he could touch her, and that
there was nobody around to hear her scream for help. Ugne
was able to free herself, run into the bathroom, and lock
the door. Afterward Ugne had bruises on her wrists and
elbows because Sam had dragged her on the carpet.
months later, they had another argument in the car. Ugne
started to cry, and Sam threatened to take Ugne home and
blow her head off. He then grabbed her hair and smashed her
head against the car door. Ugne tried to get out of the car,
but Sam began to drive wildly. He sped through red lights
and drove on the left side of road so that she Ugne could
not get out.
in April 1998, during yet another incident, Ugne tried to
call the police, but Sam took the phone from her and her
call did not go through. Fortunately, however, a neighbor
overheard Ugne's screams and called the police. The officers
noticed the bruises on Ugne's body and referred her to a
domestic violence shelter.
was able to stay at a battered women's shelter for six
weeks. She attended counseling sessions and learned that she
did have to suffer at the hands of Sam. She was referred to
an immigration attorney who helped her file a self-petition.
The police intervention has helped her receive some
protection from Sam's ongoing abuse. But Sam is angry that
he was turned into the police and threatens revenge. Ugne is
afraid that Sam will follow her back to Lithuania if she is
forced to return there for consular processing. Sam knows
exactly how to find her there and knows that there she will
be at his mercy.
case originated in Pennsylvania.
was born in Columbia. Her husband, Edmund, is a U.S. citizen
from Puerto Rico. Maggie came to this country to live with
Edmund. After moving here, Maggie gave birth to their
daughter, Susan, who is now three. After they were married,
Edmund began the process of applying for Maggie's U.S.
soon after they were married, Edmund developed a serious
drinking problem. When he would come home from drinking he
would become extremely violent and began beating Maggie. The
more he would drink, the more frequent the beatings. This
continued for two years. Finally, he beat Maggie so severely
she was physically unable to leave the house. A friend
called a domestic violence hotline and a counselor
instructed her on safety planning and how to access further
counseling services. The next day Maggie took their daughter
and left. She petitioned for and was granted a temporary
protective order. Later, she was granted a permanent
protective order. She initiated custody proceedings for her
daughter and she also cooperated with the police who filed
criminal spousal abuse charges against Edmund.
the course of several months Maggie has obtained a court
order protecting herself and her daughter from their abuser,
cooperated fully with the prosecution of Edmund, been
granted full legal custody of her daughter, obtained an
approved self-petition from INS, obtained a reliable job,
and found a new apartment at a secret location for herself
and her daughter. With the support of close friends,
attorneys and counselors she has changed herself from a
weakened victim of severe abuse to a self-reliant
Maggie were forced to return to Columbia to obtain her green
card based on her VAWA self-petition, much of the
transformation she has accomplished would be jeopardized.
She has no other family in this country. She would risk
forfeiting legal custody of her daughter to Edmund who still
has criminal charges pending against him if she left Susan
here. Maggie is understandably afraid to leave Susan in the
care of her abusive father where she might be abused or
neglected. Maggie's only alternative would be to take Susana
with her to Columbia, a country facing growing political
tensions and upheavals, where Maggie's relatives have
discouraged her from returning. Maggie would lose her job,
her apartment and the support of friends, counselors and
attorneys that have enabled Maggie to create a safe home for
her daughter and herself. None of the support services that
Maggie has come to rely upon would be available to her in
Columbia, where she would have to live without the
protection from her protection order for as long as it took
for her green card to be processed.
case originated in Pennsylvania.
was born in Ghana, where she met Alan, an American citizen.
Naomi and Alan were married and following their marriage,
they lived together with Alan and Alan's mother in
Philadelphia. Following their marriage things began to
deteriorate. Alan tried to exercise complete control over
they were married, Alan filed immigration papers that would
have given Naomi lawful permanent residency. Alan, however,
refused to tell her the date of the scheduled interview with
INS. He would not even allow her to go to the supermarket
with his mother with whom they lived. If she did have to go
out, she had to beep him and wait for him to call her back
at home for his approval and call him again when she
returned home. He would not let her see or call any of her
friends. Alan also maintained tight control over all
economic resources. Alan, who was employed as a security
guard and carried a gun, told her one day he would blow her
brains out if she failed to do exactly what he said. Naomi
lived in constant fear of him. Naomi was afraid to sleep for
fear of what he might do to her. Alan also began to
physically abuse her. Twice he battered her so severely that
Naomi had to seek medical attention for the injuries he had
inflicted on her.
the second attack, Naomi called the police for help and
moved to a domestic violence shelter. With assistance from
support groups Naomi obtained a protective order but Alan
continues to violate the order by calling to harass her.
is afraid that she will be forced to return to Ghana to
obtain her lawful permanent residency under VAWA. Alan has
vowed to get her any way he can and has promised to travel
to Ghana to harm her. Authorities in Ghana are not
sympathetic to women in Linda's situation and would not
provide any protection for her. Naomi cannot expect any
assistance, protection, or support from her family in Ghana.
Her mother is against Naomi leaving her husband. Because she
disobeyed her husband and called the police she is labeled
"trouble" and disgraced in the eyes of the
community. She will be shunned under traditional custom.
There are no support services for Naomi in Ghana where a
women is supposed to stay with her husband no matter what.
female genital mutilation is widely practiced in Ghana.
Naomi was born in a home where according to custom she
should be circumcised. Her father spared her when she was
younger because she was a sick child. When she got older,
she left and was able to avoid being circumcised. Because
Naomi was not subject to female genital mutilation, she is
considered "dirty." She is not allowed to have a
job. Her sister, who has been circumcised, does not approve
of the fact that Naomi has not and the fact that she turned
in her husband because of the abuse.
needs to be able to obtain her lawful permanent residency
while remaining in the Untied States where her protection
order can protect her from Alan's ongoing violence and where
our laws can protect her from forced circumcision.
case originated in Virginia.
is a 44-year-old woman from Mauritania. She met her husband
Bruce, an American citizen, in America through the husband
of a friend. The two began dating and moved in together in
July of 1985. Mariangela became pregnant soon after, and she
and Bruce were married in early 1986.
first time Bruce hit Mariangela was during this pregnancy.
He head been drinking, and he began hitting and shoving her.
It soon became clear that Bruce was an alcoholic, and he
drank beer and hard liquor excessively. He would become most
abusive while intoxicated.
had their first child later in 1986, and a second in
December of 1987. Over the course of her eleven years with
Bruce, Mariangela and her children have been subject to
physical and emotional abuse. Bruce keeps two or three guns
in the house, and he has pointed them at the children and
himself. Once he struck Mariangela hard in the nose, telling
her to get out of the house and leaving her to bleed. In the
most recent incident, Bruce brutally grabbed Mariangela's
arm, squeezing it so hard that it left bruises. He then
threw her on the floor. Mariangela feared for her life,
because she had never seen him so furious. She and her
daughter knelt down and begged him not to hurt them and to
give them a week to leave.
this incident, Mariangela and the two children moved out,
first staying in a shelter and then with friends. However,
Bruce's lawyer was able to wrest custody of the children
away from Mariangela. She did not have a job and could not
support the children because she did not have permission to
work in the United States. Bruce had always refused to file
for her legal permanent residency.
has filed a self-petition for residency, but would face
hardship in being forced to return to Mauritania to receive
her green card. She now has a visitation order which enables
her to see her children, but if she leaves the country for
an indefinite period of time, she may lose that right.
Furthermore, Bruce could follow her to Mauritania where he
could abuse her without legal consequences. Mariangela wants
to remain in this country and fight to get her children away
from their abusive father. However, forcing her to leave,
even briefly, presents her with undue hardship and danger
and may permanently jeopardize her ability to obtain legal
custody of her children and protect them from Bruce's
case originated in Nevada.
is a 34-year-old citizen of Mexico. She met her husband,
Enrique, at his sister's wedding in Mexico in 1978. Vilma
and Enrique began dating shortly after that, and Enrique
asked her to marry him in 1979. Vilma thought perhaps she
was not ready for marriage at that time, and she was
bothered by the fact that Enrique had been divorced once
before. She rejected his proposal, and Enrique did not take
the rejection well. Vilma and Enrique continued to date one another, and Vilma gave
birth to their first child, a daughter. About a year later,
Enrique arrived at Vilma's home waving a gun in his hand,
telling her that they were going to get married right away,
and that he would not take "no" for an answer.
Vilma calmed him down and persuaded him to postpone the
marriage. Enrique's irrational behavior shocked and
frightened her, but she excused it. She thought it was just
an isolated incident.
relationship continued through the next five years. In that
time, Vilma gave birth to three more of Enrique's daughters.
She married Enrique in 1988 in Mexico. That same year,
Enrique came to the Nevada and became a lawful permanent
resident of the U.S. He sent for Vilma and their four
daughters, and they joined him in the U.S. at that time.
after Vilma arrived in the U.S., Vilma's ten-year-old niece,
Carla, came to live with Vilma, Enrique, and their
daughters. One evening, when Carla was twelve years old,
while the family was trying to sleep, Enrique attempted to
sexually assault Carla. Vilma was horrified that Enrique
would do such a thing, and she feared that he might also try
to sexually abuse his own daughters, as well. She wanted to
leave Enrique, but at that point, she was pregnant with
another child, and she was entirely dependent on Enrique for
food, clothing and shelter for her and her four daughters.
Enrique did not give her enough money to support the family,
and she was forced to sell tamales, clothes, and cleaning
supplies just to make enough money to keep her children
housed, fed, and clothed.
1995, Enrique took a vacation to Mexico and returned with a
sixteen-year-old girl named Selma, who he claimed was his
daughter. Vilma attempted to accept Selma into her family
and treat her like a daughter. However, shortly after Selma
arrived, Vilma discovered that Enrique was having an
incestuous relationship with his daughter Selma. They were
behaving more like lovers than like father and daughter.
Vilma's daughters noticed Selma and their father hugging and
kissing like lovers and getting into bed together. When
Vilma confronted Enrique about his behavior, he threatened
to kill her and her whole family. He became very violent
toward Vilma after that, beating her with his fists and
slapping her across the face. He also began beating his
daughters with belts or slapping them across their faces. He
was angry at his daughters for telling Vilma about his
sexual relations with Selma.
did not go to the police because she was afraid of her
husband. She sought help from a priest who put her in touch
with a social worker. It was at that time that Vilma found a
receipt for a pregnancy test for Selma. After questioning
Selma about the pregnancy test, Vilma discovered that
Enrique had forced Selma to have an abortion of the
pregnancy that resulted from his incest with her, and that
he was now having an affair with a young man. Vilma's older
daughter also confessed to her mother that Enrique had been
sexually molesting her for some time. Reeling with the shock
of all of these discoveries about her husband, Vilma
gathered her children and left him, fleeing to her sister's
1997, police officers came to Vilma's home and informed her
that Enrique was arrested for the murder of the young man
with whom he had been having the affair. If he is convicted
of this crime, he will be deported to Mexico.
Vilma obtained approval of her VAWA self-petition for
residency. If she is forced to return to Mexico to get her
green card, she if afraid that Enrique will be waiting for
her there to abuse or kill her. Her six children, two of
whom are U.S. citizens, have all had a very difficult time
recovering from the emotional trauma of the violence and
sexual abuse Enrique inflicted upon them. The daughter who
was sexually abused by Enrique suffers from depression and
is undergoing counseling. Several of Vilma's other children
have emotional problems and see counselors at their schools.
Because of her children's delicate emotional state, Vilma
cannot be separated from them for the time it will take to
get her green card. In addition, Vilma fears that if she
returns to Mexico, she will suffer shame and humiliation
because of the physical and sexual abuse she endured with
her husband. Vilma's family would not support her if she
were to return to Mexico. Vilma would be left without
emotional and financial resources in a country where her
murderous, abusive husband could find her. In order to keep
herself safe and preserve the emotional well-being of her
children, Vilma must be allowed to remain in the U.S. to get
her green card.
case originated in Rhode Island.
was born in Guatemala, where she met her future husband
Cristian. Her grandfather was in business with his
grandfather, and the two were acquaintances from childhood.
As a young adult, Alejandra traveled to the United States to
escape the Guatemalan guerrilla forces persecuting her
family. Cristian had also come to the United States by this
time and had become a lawful permanent resident. The two met
up again by chance, and started dating. Before long they
had a daughter from a previous relationship who moved in
with Cristian and Alejandra. Alejandra soon became pregnant
with another child, from her marriage to Cristian. Around
this time, Cristian began to verbally abuse Alejandra,
calling her names and accusing her of looking at other men.
The abuse seemed to intensify daily. Four months into her
pregnancy, Cristian physically abused Alejandra for the
first time. They had an argument, and he beat her all over
her body, leaving her thoroughly bruised. He said that if
she told anyone what he did, he would kill her or have her
deported and take her daughter away. The abuse began again
in the eighth and ninth months of her pregnancy. He made her
stay in the house for weeks so that no one would see her
the birth of their son, the situation worsened. Cristian was
constantly jealous and always accused Alejandra of lying to
him. She was not allowed to speak with anyone, even her
brothers and sister. When Cristian went out, he would lock
Alejandra and the children in the house so they would not go
anywhere. Alejandra had to wash the family's clothes in the
sink, because he would not allow her to go to the
Laundromat. He did all the food shopping because he did not
want her to leave the house. On one occasion, Cristian
threatened Alejandra with a pistol, telling her she was a
bad mother and he would have her children taken away from
her. When Cristian's family visited, Alejandra tried to
explain to his mother that he was abusing her. She did not
believe Alejandra, and Alejandra felt completely trapped and
her birthday, Alejandra's co-workers honored her with
flowers. That night, when she brought the flowers home,
Cristian accused her of receiving them from boyfriends. He
beat her, and demanded she tell him who her lovers are. When
Alejandra protested she had none, he yelled that he would
kill her if she were not telling the truth. After this
incident, he did not allow her to leave the house for the
next three days, even to go to work. Whenever they went
somewhere together and someone greeted Alejandra, he would
hit her in the face when they got home. She was terrified of
Cristian, but did not know how to get herself out of the
abusive situation. She wanted to call the police after his
beatings, but he would disconnect the phones. He also
forbade her to leave the house for several days after
beatings to prevent her from making a police report in
began to use drugs, and this made the abuse even worse. He
beat her almost daily; Alejandra's body was continuously
covered with bruises for three years. Cristian intimidated
her into lying when anyone inquired about her bruises. He
also began verbally abusing and beating the children when
they were three and four years old. The abuse affected them
profoundly, and they became nervous and timid. Even the
neighbors were afraid of Cristian, they never called the
police when they overheard the violence for fear of what he
would do to them.
one particularly frightening incident, Alejandra took the
children and entered a shelter. Cristian had shoved her into
a wall and threatened to kill her, which terrified her.
However, after five days in the shelter, Alejandra returned
home. She did not know how to survive on her own, and was
frightened that if she did not return Cristian would find
her and kill her.
abuse continued after Alejandra's return. On one occasion,
Cristian took the children to pick her up at work, and the
car broke down. Frustrated, he tried to fix the problem
while Alejandra and the children stood on the sidewalk. He
looked up from what he was doing and accused her of looking
at another man in the street. Walking over to her, he
slapped her hard several times in the face. When they
finally returned home, the his anger escalated. He punched
her four times hard in the face, causing it to bleed.
Cristian then said he was going to kill her, and dragged her
to the second story window and threatened to throw her out.
The children screamed, and he let her go and left the room.
Alejandra took the children and entered a shelter. She
returned to Cristian a week later, but after receiving
another severe beating, she decided to leave him for good.
is now thriving on her own and is a good provider for her
American citizen children. She has a restraining order
against Cristian, and she and the children are recovering
from the psychological effects of his abuse. Although
Cristian has communicated to Alejandra's relatives his
intent to violate the order, stalk her, and shoot her, so
far the protection order seems to be working. Alejandra has
self-petitioned for residency, but it would be dangerous for
her to return to Guatemala for consular processing. She has
no family there because of guerrilla death threats and
attacks, and she and her children would be in great danger
if they returned. She would have to take the children if she
returned, because she has no one else to care for them.
Cristian would also again become a threat if they stayed in
Guatemala, because her protective order against him would
not be valid there. Alejandra is convinced he would try to
kill her if given the opportunity. For these reasons, it is
imperative that Alejandra be permitted to remain in the
United States to receive her green card.
case originated in Nebraska.
is a 37-year-old woman originally from Mexico. In 1983, she
met her husband Geraldo, now a lawful permanent resident of
the United States. They met in Mexico when she was 18 and he
was 27. After one year of courtship, Geraldo convinced
Josefina to live with him in America. Soon after they
arrived, she discovered she was pregnant, and the couple
returned to Mexico to get married. After the wedding,
Geraldo returned to America alone, and Josefina had her baby
in Mexico in January 1985.
sent Josefina and their daughter money regularly, and
finally came to see them in February of 1986. He stayed for
one month before returning to the United States, and during
his stay they conceived another child. This time he did not
send money from the United States. He returned to Mexico
just in time for the birth of his second child in October of
1996. However, soon after he returned to the United States
and this time remained in the U.S. for four years. Geraldo
did not send much money to his family during this time
period, but Josefina and the children were able to survive
by living with Geraldo's mother.
November of 1990, Geraldo returned to Mexico and brought his
family to Nebraska to live with him. He had a good job and
was able to provide a home for his family in Nebraska in
1991. Josefina became pregnant with their third child.
However, Geraldo started drinking heavily. His drinking
problems escalated over time to the point where he was
almost always drunk. He lost his long term job, and a series
of other jobs after that. Nevertheless, Josefina had their
third child in late 1991, and a fourth in early 1993.
after the birth of their fourth child, Geraldo began to use
physical violence against Josefina. On one occasion he got
angry with her and choked her. When she threatened to call
the police, he intimidated her into believing that they
would deport her and take away the children. From that time
on, Geraldo often threatened to have Josefina deported. He
told her she was not capable of taking care of herself and
the children because she has never worked and is illegal. He
claimed she could never survive without his help, unless she
became a prostitute. Geraldo would also scare the children
by threatening to hit them if they ever told anyone that
their father got drunk. Josefina continued to live with
Geraldo, perceiving that she had no other options, and the
couple had a fifth child in 1995.
alcoholism continued to worsen, and the abuse escalated as a
result. One evening in 1997, Geraldo came home drunk,
screaming that he was leaving Josefina and the children. He
started throwing things around the house, taunting and
threatening Josefina. He then grabbed her by the hair and
pulled her around, brandishing a heavy vase. Josefina
screamed, and their oldest daughter called the police.
Geraldo's fear of the police resulted in somewhat of a
lessening of his violence against Josefina.
constantly demeans Josefina with obscene and hateful
language, and prevents her from having a job or any
independence. He is also extremely cruel to his two older
children. He derides their status as Mexican citizens and
tells them he does not consider them his children. He tells
them he will have them deported because he only loves his
younger children who were born in America. Geraldo also
tells his oldest daughter he hates her for calling the
police on him, and frequently calls her obscene names. He
makes fun of his oldest son because he has to wear glasses,
calling him a nerd and a stupid child. He also calls this
son gay, saying his voice is like a woman's.
wants to free herself and her children from Geraldo's
tyranny by becoming a lawful permanent resident and finding
a job. She has filed a self-petition but is very afraid of
having to return to Mexico for consular processing. She
cannot afford passage to Mexico for herself and her five
children, and is frightened to leave them with Geraldo. In
addition, she does not want to remove them from school for
an indeterminate amount of time and bring them to a foreign
country where they are unfamiliar with the language and
customs. Josefina also fears that Geraldo would follow her
to Mexico and abuse or kill her there, where the law is less
strict. It is therefore necessary that she remain in the
United States to obtain her green card, enabling Josefina to
give her children a fresh start.
case originated in New Jersey.
is originally from Peru. In her hometown she met Manolo, a
man who was related by marriage to Ramona's family. She and
Manolo also had many friends in common, and Manolo would
visit Ramona's house every time he came to Peru. Manolo was
at that time a lawful permanent resident of the United
States, but he still kept in close contact with his mother
and friends in Peru. Over the next four years, Ramona and
Manolo wrote letters to one another, and Manolo visited her
in Peru whenever he had a vacation. After Manolo was
seriously injured in an accident, he relied on Ramona's
letters and phone calls to support and encourage him to
recover. The two fell in love and were married in 1993 in
Peru. Ramona was excited to move to the U.S. with Manolo and
start a family here.
incorrectly informed Ramona that he could not immediately
petition for her residency while he was disabled and unable
to work full-time. Ramona believed him and resolved to learn
English in preparation for the day when she could get work
authorization. What she did not know was that her husband
was insanely jealous and kept track of her movements from
the very first day of their marriage. He started ordering
her to dress a certain way and stop seeing her friends. He
was paranoid that she was having affairs with other men, so
he insisted on knowing where she was at all times. If she
ever returned home a bit later than usual, he would yell at
her and call her a prostitute.
soon discovered that Manolo's jealousy had become a sick
obsession. He made friends with the security guards in their
apartment building so that they would let him see the
security camera videos of people entering and leaving the
building. He would watch these videos every evening after
work, noting the times that Ramona would enter and leave the
building, what she was carrying, and who she was with. She
began to feel like a prisoner in her own home.
began physically abusing Ramona in July of 1996. Ramona and
Manolo made a trip to New York to buy her a dress. Once they
returned home to New Jersey, Ramona realized that the dress
did not fit, so she decided to sell it to a woman who took
English classes with her. She left the house without telling
her husband where she was going and when she would return.
When she arrived home after selling the dress, Manolo was
furious. He yelled insults at her and threw her onto the
bed. She struggled to get away from him and ran through the
apartment, trying to escape from him as he chased her. He
finally caught her, ripped all her clothes off, and punched
her in the face. Only two months later, a similar incident
happened after Ramona came home a bit later than usual after
attending her English teacher's birthday party. When she
came home, Manolo jumped on her and threw her against a
closet, shaking her body against the closet doors and
beating her on the head with his fists. He kicked her out of
the house into the pouring rain that night, warning her that
"an illegal cannot file complaints with the
police." Ramona called a friend to pick her up and take
her to her friend's house where she would be safe.
week later, Manolo asked her to come back to him. He told
her that if she did not return, he would withdraw the
immigration work he had started for her. Ramona was afraid
that he would have her deported, so she returned to him.
Unfortunately, he began to abuse her as soon as she came
home. One evening, Ramona came home and Manolo started
accusing her of being with other men. He tangled his fingers
in her hair and shoved her backward onto the floor. Still
holding her down by her hair, he hit her face with his fist.
His face and hands were shaking with rage, and Ramona
thought that he would kill her. Finally, he stopped hitting
her and left her lying on the floor. The next morning,
Ramona combed her hair, and a handful of her hair fell out
of her head from where Manolo had been pulling it. Ramona
decided to find an attorney to help her leave her husband
and go into hiding. She filed a VAWA self-petition for
residency, as well.
Ramona is forced to return to Peru as the only way of
getting her green card under VAWA, she will be in great
danger. She is currently hiding from Manolo in confidential
housing, and he has no idea where she is living in the U.S.
He is obsessed with her, and he is angry because she dared
to leave him. Ramona's family in Peru has warned her that if
she returns, Manolo will try to kill her. They know this
because Manolo himself has traveled to Peru and spoken with
Ramona's mother, niece, and friends, telling them that
Ramona can hide from him in New Jersey, but she cannot hide
from him in Peru. He has asked his family to "keep an
eye out" for Ramona and let him know when she returns
to Peru. Now that he is a U.S. citizen, he can travel easily
and carry out his threat to kill her in Peru.
knows that once she comes out of hiding and travels to Peru,
Manolo will find her and punish her for leaving him. He will
try to force her to return to him, and when she refuses, he
will beat her and possibly kill her. Since all of Ramona's
family live in the same small town as Manolo's family,
Ramona's presence in Peru will certainly be discovered by
Manolo. The only way that Ramona can remain safe is by
staying in the U.S. under the protection of her restraining
order and her confidential housing. She knows that if she
returns to Peru, Manolo will hunt her down and kill her.
case originated in New Jersey.
and Damoni met in 1990 in their native country of Kenya.
They became friends, and in 1992 they traveled to the United
States together to visit Damoni's brother. Damoni's brother
petitioned for Damoni to become a lawful permanent resident.
Kamara and Damoni soon began dating, and had a daughter
together in 1993. The couple had a happy and healthy
relationship until 1994, when Kamara became pregnant again.
began to abuse Kamara shortly before she gave birth to their
second child, a son. He would insult and demean her, tear
her clothes, leave her without food, and smash dishes around
her. Kamara had no idea what caused such a change in Damoni.
Before long, he began beating Kamara, frequently punching
her with his fist. On one occasion, he hit her in the head
so hard that he ruptured her eardrum. She had to have an
operation to restore her eardrum later that year. Damoni
also began writing letters to Kamara's parents in Kenya,
threatening the safety of Kamara and her parents. These
incidents led Kamara to call the police and obtain a
restraining order, which succeeded in reducing the violence
for a while.
Kamara gave birth to their son, Damoni was less abusive, and
Kamara was compelled to stay with him to ensure the
financial security of the family. Damoni proposed marriage
in 1996, and Kamara accepted, hoping that the marriage would
make things better. The couple was married in 1997, and
Damoni filed a petition for Kamara's residency. However,
after the marriage, the abuse resumed and escalated. Damoni
revoked his petition for Kamara and threatened to have her
deported. Kamara became clinically depressed over her
situation, and was hospitalized for a few months.
has filed a self-petition for residency so that she will no
longer be dependent on Damoni and can cooperate in his
prosecution for the beatings she has suffered. However,
returning to Kenya would be dangerous for Kamara. She cannot
afford to take her American citizen children out of the
country for an indeterminate period, nor can she leave them
behind. If she separated from the children, Damoni could try
to obtain custody of them. Additionally, Damoni, who has
maintained ongoing contact with friends and family members
in Kenya, could follow through on his threats to harm Kamara
and her family in Kenya. It is vital to Kamara's and her
loved ones' safety that she not be required to leave the
safety of the United States and return to Kenya for consular
case originated in New Jersey.
originally from Peru, moved to the United States about five
years ago. While in the United States she met Franco, a
naturalized United States citizen who was originally from
Chile. The two dated and were married in 1996, when
Rosalinda was 31 years old.
the couple was married, Rosalinda had a job as a waitress,
and worked from 8:00 p.m. until 3:00 a.m. daily. Franco grew
possessive and jealous after their marriage, and went to
work with Rosalinda every evening. He would watch her
closely and bother her when she was serving customers. The
owner felt this was bad for business and fired Rosalinda.
soon began at home, and Franco started verbally abusing
Rosalinda. He frequently called her a whore and accused her
of sleeping with other men. He did not permit Rosalinda to
socialize, and if she greeted anyone, he screamed at her. He
often berated her loudly in public, and many times he
abandoned her in stores or on the street after yelling at
her. On one occasion, he threw her, her shopping bags, and
her clean laundry into the street and drove home. Rosalinda
had to gather her belongings and take a taxi home, where she
found Franco relaxing on the sofa.
began using drugs, and would frequently come home at night
under the influence of cocaine. He would invent reasons to
argue, and would violently beat Rosalinda. One evening he
arrived home in a crazed state and began hitting Rosalinda
and calling her a whore. Rosalinda fell onto the floor,
crying and begging Franco to stop hurting her. Franco
continued hitting her and proceeded to break her nose and
injure her mouth, causing her to bleed profusely. She ran to
her room in the basement and locked the door, but Franco
followed her and kicked down her door and part of the wall.
Rosalinda tried to cover her face so he would stop hitting
her, but he proceeded to pull her hair, spit on her, and
kick her repeatedly. Then he threw her down on the bed, tore
her clothes off, and raped her. Afterwards, Franco got up
and left. Rosalinda could not get up for two days. She was
covered with bruises and her sheets were covered with blood.
When she was finally able to get up, she walked with a limp
for several days.
continued to fight with Rosalinda, especially over money.
Rosalinda supported Franco and paid all the bills, but
Franco would always pester her for more money, presumably so
that he could buy drugs. She did not know what she could do
about her situation, and did not think she had any rights
because she was an immigrant and he was a citizen. He used
his power to petition for her residency as a way to maintain
control over her.
a while, Rosalinda learned that she could call 911 for
emergencies. She called on three separate occasions when
Franco beat her, but when the police arrived he begged her
to recant. He told her he would change, and manipulated her
into telling the police that nothing happened. On one
occasion when Rosalinda called the police, Franco saw them
first and told them to arrest Rosalinda for stealing his
papers. When Rosalinda explained that she was the one who
called 911, the police told her to press charges. However,
she was afraid Franco would kill her if she had him put in
evening, Rosalinda arrived home late from work, and Franco
was furious with her. He demanded to know where she had
been, but refused to believe her when she said she was with
a friend. He began to hit her, and when she fell to the
floor, he got on top of her and punched her in the face
repeatedly. He punched her until she lost consciousness, and
she has no memory of what happened next. She could not get
up, remaining on the kitchen floor until late the next day
in agony and unable to move. She did not have any family or
friends to help her, and thought she had been left to die.
When Franco got home, he saw that she was gravely injured
and took her to the hospital on the condition that she not
tell anyone he was the one who beat her. Rosalinda's doctors
found several broken veins in her ears and severe contusions
all over her body. When they asked who had beaten her, she
said it was her boyfriend. They encouraged her to press
charges, but she could not say anything because Franco was
there with her the whole time. She knew that if she turned
him in, he would beat her again and possibly kill her.
wishes to file a self-petition for residency so that she can
leave Franco and live independently. Yet if she returns to
Peru for consular processing, her life could be in danger
again. Franco could follow her there, where he would not be
inhibited by American law. He could beat or kill her in
Peru, where laws to protect women against domestic violence
do not exist. She has no friends or family left in Peru who
could support and protect her during her stay, and is
without resources to exist there on her own for an
indeterminate period. For these reasons, Rosalinda must be
able to receive her green card without leaving the United
case originated in Idaho.
was born in Mexico. She came to the United States on a
visitor's visa. Here, she met Steven, a United States
citizen. Lourdes and Steven courted and fell in love. They
later married. Steven promised to petition for Lourdes's
legal immigration status before her visitor's visa expired.
Unfortunately, Steven not only neglected to petition for
Lourdes, he also used her illegal immigration status as a
means of controlling her and making her dependent upon him
throughout their marriage.
began sexually abusing Lourdes soon after their marriage. He
would force her to have anal sex with him against her will.
He would "discipline" Lourdes by grabbing her
roughly, slapping her, pulling her hair, or slamming her
into walls. He would abuse her physically in this way
whenever he perceived that Lourdes was not behaving like a
good wife or not following his "orders." He would
become irrationally angry for no reason at all and indulge
his anger by abusing Lourdes. Whenever she would ask him not
to hit her anymore, Steven would threaten to have her
deported. He also told her that if she called the police,
not only would he not petition for her green card, but he
would report her to the INS himself.
and Steven have four children. The oldest one, a daughter,
was born severely mentally retarded. Her condition is a
degenerative one that requires constant medical care and
monitoring. Lourdes was especially reluctant to leave Steven
because she feared that if she were deported, her daughter
would not receive the care she needed in Mexico. So Lourdes
mainly kept quiet about Steven's abuse.
evening, the police were called to the family home because
Steven had kicked Lourdes and the children out of the house
in one of his fits of rage. Steven was arrested and jailed
for some time, and Lourdes spoke to an attorney and filed
for a restraining order against Steven. She also moved out
of the house and went with her children to a shelter.
has applied for her residency through VAWA. She is very
concerned about the prospect of returning to Mexico to get
her green card pursuant to VAWA. Her children are U.S.
citizens, and they have no one but their mother to look
after them in the United States. Lourdes' protection order
grants her legal custody of the children. Lourdes's older
daughter also needs constant medical care. Her mother
administers her care daily along with trained specialists
and doctors. Lourdes could not possibly leave this daughter
or any of her other children behind in the United States
while she was getting her green card. Leaving them with
Steven is not an option: Lourdes fears Steven and does not
trust him to care for the children. It is highly unlikely
that even for a short period of time Lourdes would be able
to get adequate medical care for her daughter in Mexico. The
standard of care in treating her daughter's complicated
condition would be low in Mexico. For her children's sakes,
and for the safety her protection order is providing her,
Lourdes must be able to remain in the United States to get
her green card.
story originated in Idaho.
Luisa, a Mexican native, who married Victor, a
Mexican-American U.S. citizen, in Mexico. Victor brought
Maria Luisa and her three Mexican born children to the U.S.
illegally, but later never wanted to get legal papers for
years Victor submitted Maria Luisa to emotional and physical
abuse. He would shove and beat her, and threaten to kill
her. After he threatened her with a shotgun in October of
1997, Maria Luisa fled to a shelter in a nearby state.
Because there was not enough room for her and her children
in the shelter, they stayed in a motel for several months
before being moved to another shelter. After the stress of
being moved around, Maria Luisa eventually contacted Victor
through a friend, despite the restraining order she had
received to keep him away from her. Because of the
difficulties of living in the shelter with her three
children, and her hopes that her marriage can be saved,
Maria Luisa has moved back home with Victor. Her protection
order remains in effect ordering Victor not to molest,
assault, threaten, or abuse her or her children.
Luisa is afraid that after her self-petition is approved,
she will have to return to Mexico to go through consular
processing. If this happens, she will be faced the difficult
question of whether to leave her children with a violent
step father, or to take them with her to Mexico for an
unknown period of time. Victor, who is also from Mexico, is
likely to follow her there, where her protection order will
not offer protection for her and her children from Victor's
case originated in California, moved to Utah, and is
currently in Idaho.
originally from Mexico, traveled to Los Angeles in 1990.
There she met Lucian, a United States citizen. The two
dated, and had a daughter together in July of 1991. Then
they both moved into Lucian' parents home in June of 1992.
relationship was troubled, and Carols frequently fought with
Laura. In August, during an argument, Lucian struck Laura.
Shocked and frightened, she went to live with a friend. Yet,
due to Lucian's profuse apologies, Laura moved back in with
him in December.
Lucian professed he would change, he soon fell back into his
old habits of degrading and verbally abusing Laura. He also
began hitting her regularly. He resented the fact that their
daughter took Laura's attention, and he was jealous of the
time and care she gave the little girl. Lucian easily became
angry and frustrated, and made a habit of taking these
feelings out on Laura. He would punch her face and body with
his fists and kick her. His family never did anything to
stop the abuse.
March of 1994, Lucian moved to Utah, while Laura remained
with his family in California. Lucian persistently pleaded
with Laura to join him in Utah, and in May she finally did.
Lucian insisted that their past problems were caused by the
stress of living with his family, and that in Utah things
would be more peaceful.
Utah, however, the abuse continued. Lucian was as verbally
and physically violent as ever. When Laura was pregnant with
her second child, she discovered that Lucian was using
marijuana and cocaine. She found his drugs and threw them
away, fearful of their consequences. When Lucian discovered
his drugs missing, he became livid and grabbed Laura by the
hair. He then proceeded to punch her in the face again and
again. Laura was too afraid to call the police.
Laura's pregnancy, Lucian would invite friends over, and the
men would leave the apartment in a constant state of
disarray. Lucian always ordered Laura to clean up after
them. Laura did not have enough energy to continually clean
the apartment, and asked Lucian to be more considerate.
Lucian became enraged, and threatened her with a knife,
telling her he was going to kill her. This time Laura did
call the police. However, by the time they arrived, Lucian
had run away. Later he returned home and begged for
forgiveness. Laura was pregnant and alone, and felt she had
no choice but to return to him.
January of 1995, after giving birth to her second child,
Laura left Lucian after a frightening incident. It was her
job to wake Lucian in the middle of the night, when he had
to leave for work. He would not share his bed with her, and
she slept on the floor next to her children's beds. When the
alarm went off one morning, Laura went to wake Lucian, but
he would not stir. She prodded and shook him, but he refused
to wake up. Exhausted, Laura fell back asleep on the floor.
When Lucian awoke naturally several hours later, he was
furious to realize that he was late for work. He went to
where Laura was sleeping and repeatedly kicked her on the
bruised, and terrified of Lucian, Laura went to Idaho to
live with her mother. Things were calm for a few months, but
in June, Lucian found Laura and begged for another chance.
However, Lucian had not changed, and the verbal and physical
abuse continued at Laura's mother's house. Realizing he
would not win her over, Lucian decided to persuade Laura
with threats. He said he would take the children away and
have her deported if she did not return to him. He called
her every afternoon with these threats until she relented in
February of 1996. They moved into their own apartment, but
nothing had changed, and Lucian continued the abuse.
Finally, in March of 1997, Laura separated from Lucian for
the last time.
wishes to remain in the United States with her children. She
filed a self-petition for residency since Lucian never
followed through on the family-based I-130 petition he filed
for her. She has also filed for divorce and legal custody of
the children, and the state of Idaho is helping her secure a
child support award from Lucian. Through her VAWA
self-petition, Laura has legal authorization to work to
support herself and her two daughters. Lucian has not paid
child support since the separation, forcing Laura to be the
sole provider for her children.
Laura is forced to return to Mexico to obtain lawful
permanent resident status, she will have to leave her job,
thereby giving up her sole means of providing for her
children. There is no indication of how long she would be
detained in Mexico for consular processing, and it would be
as impractical for her to take her children as it would to
leave them behind. If she leaves them behind, they cannot be
protected from Lucian's abuse. Traveling to Mexico may also
interfere with court orders entered in the divorce and
custody case currently pending. Further, she fears that
Lucian will search for her and find her in Mexico just as he
did in Idaho, even if she only leaves the United States for
a short time. It must be possible for Laura to obtain her
residency status here in the United States, so as not to
disrupt her family's care and well-being.
case originated in Kansas.
is a 33-year-old woman born in Mexico. She met her lawful
permanent resident husband Vincento in Kansas soon after
coming to the United States. She agreed to marry Vincento
after a brief courtship, as she found herself lonely and
isolated in the community due to lack of English proficiency
and family support.
moving in with her husband Stella realized that she was to
share their home not only with him but also with four other
men who lived there. Her husband refused to abide by his
promise to ask them to move out when his new bride came to
live with him. Vincento told Stella that it was her duty not
only to serve him but also the boarders. She was treated as
a servant and subject to constant mockery and humiliation by
her husband and the other men in the house.
used emotional abuse, intimidation, and power and control
strategies to isolate Stella further from family, church,
and the few acquaintances she had in the United States.
Vincento blamed Stella for his angry outbursts and insults.
He forbade her use of the phone, made constant false
accusations of infidelity, and made threats to report her to
immigration to have her deported if she did not do what he
soon lost control of her life. She never knew what day of
the month it was, as she was restricted from contact with
the outside world. Vincento said Stella was
"crazy," and so he controlled every aspect of her
life. She was not allowed to have any money and had to rely
on Vincento for even her most basic necessities. Stella
endured sexual abuse by Vincento, who would degrade her by
mocking her body and calling her a whore as he forced her to
have sex with him.
physical abuse started soon after she became pregnant.
Stella endured many beatings which left her bruised and in
constant fear for her safety and for the well-being of their
unborn child she was carrying. Vincento would not allow her
to see a doctor until very late in her pregnancy, and during
those visits he controlled every interaction with the
doctors and staff. Once, Stella passed a note in secret to a
nurse stating in that she was being abused by her husband.
This led to the referral of the couple to marital counseling
by a nun, which failed.
cycle of abuse continued, and Stella lived in a constant
state of fear. Vincento threatened to take the baby, have
Stella deported, or kill her if she left him. He kept a
shotgun in their bedroom closet, and he would take it out
and stroke it, saying, "once the dog is dead, the
rabies is gone." He would also tell her gory stories of
women that were buried alive by their partners in their
Stella was able to break free from Vincento's abuses after
joining a support group for victims of domestic violence.
With the help of this program she was able to file for
immigration benefits under VAWA and obtain a divorce from
Vincento. Despite this fact, she will face extreme hardship
if forced to return to Mexico to obtain lawful permanent
resident status under VAWA. Her divorce decree forbids her
or her husband from taking their child out of the state of
Kansas, so Stella would have to leave her child behind when
she returned to Mexico for an indeterminate amount of time.
While she is gone, Vincento could claim that she has
abandoned her child and receive full custody despite the
fact that because of the domestic violence Stella was
awarded legal custody of the children. Furthermore, Stella
fears being tracked down in Mexico by her vindictive
husband, where she would not be protected by the law.
Finally, Stella is apprehensive about the reality of
financial hardship posed by a trip to Mexico and the meager
resources available to her once she arrived to her country
of origin. For these reasons, Stella should not be forced to
return to Mexico, which she severed contact with many years
ago, and must be allowed to obtain legal residency status
while remaining in this country.
case originated in Minnesota.
was born in Mexico. She met her husband, Tomas, when she was
15. Shortly afterward, he left to come to the U.S. to work
in order to help support his family. Magdalena stayed in
Mexico to continue her schooling. Several years later, in
1998, when Magdalena was one year away from completing her
post high school studies, they began communicating again.
Tomas returned to Mexico for several months, and they
decided Magdalena would return with him to the U.S. In May
of 1989, they both came to California. Their first child,
Susana, was born in 1990, and their son Antonio was born in
were married in a civil ceremony in California in 1992. When
they were married, Tomas, who was a permanent resident,
filed papers for Magdalena to obtain lawful immigration
status in this country. After mailing the petition, they
were notified that they needed proper copies of Magdalena's
birth certificate and the marriage certificate. Tomas
refused to complete the process, which meant that Magdalena
could not work and was afraid to leave the house for fear of
being deported. For the next three years, Tomas refused to
file the immigration papers. When Magdalena sought to take
English classes, he prevented her from doing so. Tomas also
used money to control Magdalena. He kept all the money and
never allowed her to spend any of it. Feeling depressed
about her life in the U.S., Magdalena returned to Mexico to
stay with her in-laws in 1995.
followed her to Mexico. They reunited, and Magdalena became
pregnant again. Tomas believed that the child was not his,
and after several months he returned to the U.S. Magdalena
had the baby in Mexico in July 1996. The next month, Tomas
again sought out and joined Magdalena in Mexico. Tomas was
angry and distant. He returned to the U.S. to work, saying
he would return in January of 1997. When he did not return,
Magdalena took her thee small children and went to Los
Angeles to look for him. When she arrived in Los Angeles,
California, she discovered that Tomas had been living with
another woman and had recently gone to Mexico. Magdalena
returned to Mexico, and again in May of 1997, Tomas sought
her out and convinced her to rejoin him in L.A. Soon Tomas
decided to move to Minnesota to find work. Magdalena and the
three children joined him there ten months later.
month after Magdalena joined Tomas in Minnesota, in June of
1998, Tomas struck Magdalena in the face so hard that her
eye began to swell immediately. Later, seeing the black eye,
Tomas apologized and swore it would not happen again. A few
weeks later, three of Tomas's friends arrived unexpectedly.
They stayed up late drinking. Magdalena went to sleep. She
was awakened by her eight-year-old son who was upset and
worried because he had heard his father tell the other men
he was going to put Magdalena on a bus and "lose
her," keeping the children with him in the U.S. Later,
Tomas told her he wanted to talk to her. He then slapped
her, grabbed her by her hair, and slammed her head against
into the wall several times with such force that a window
fell out of the wall. He used a hanger to bind her wrists.
She thought he was going to kill her. Her son came in and
she told him to call 911. When her son went to the phone,
Tomas told him not to call or he would hurt Magdalena even
more. They were not sure if the call went through to the
police. Tomas grabbed Magdalena by the hair again and told
her she would have to tell the police to go away if they did
arrive. Magdalena then put her son in bed, telling him that
if Tomas beat her again, he should call 911. When she
returned, Tomas forced her to have sex with him. She did not
resist for fear of angering him further.
Tomas apologized afterward and promised it would never
happen again. The next month, Tomas got upset with Magdalena
because he felt she had taken to long running an errand. He
yelled that she should not play when he gave her tasks to
do. He took off his belt. Magdalena ran to another room and
asked a woman who was staying with them to call the police.
The woman refused, saying she was afraid of Tomas. Magdalena
started back into the bedroom where Tomas was beating one of
the children. Magdalena instructed her seven-year-old
daughter to call the police and tell them that Tomas was
beating her brother and mother. Magdalena went into the
bedroom and Tomas began beating her with the buckle end of
the belt. When she tried to leave, he dragged her back into
the room by her hair. He continued to beat her in front of
all three children. Finally, the police arrived and arrested
Tomas. They referred Magdalena to a battered women's shelter
and advocacy program. The program helped her find housing
and assisted her in getting a protective order.
would be extremely difficult for Magdalena and her children
to return to Mexico. The only family she has in Mexico is a
mother who is very poor and quite ill with five children
ages eleven to twenty living in her house. She has no room
or way to support Magdalena and her three children for the
unknown period of time it might take to process Magdalena's
green card which she qualifies for because of VAWA.
Magdalena could expect no assistance from Tomas's family,
who also lives in Mexico. They blame Magdalena for the
problems with the court system that Tomas has experienced as
a result of his violence toward Magdalena.
Magdalena and the children return to Mexico, Tomas will be
able to come after them with impunity. She would have
neither the protection of her protection order nor the
police. She would have no one to call for help. In the U.S.,
the protection order not only protects Magdalena from
physical harm but also protects the children through orders
for supervised visitation and child support. These are extra
protections that Magdalena and the children simply would not
have in Mexico.
Magdalena to return to Mexico with her children so that
Magdalena and her Mexico-born children can obtain green
cards would wrest the two older children, both U.S. citizens
in second and third grade, from their school. Their English
is good, and they have made new friends in Minnesota.
Magdalena and the children are benefitting from the
counseling and support services offered at the shelter.
These types of resources do not exist for them in Mexico,
and severing them from long term services that help them
survive abuse will cause them severe harm.
case originated in Minnesota.
was born in Mexico. She met her lawful permanent resident
husband, Herman, in 1993 when he was visiting from Los
Angeles. After spending several months together, they moved
to the United States to live with his parents in Santa Ana,
California. Soon problems began. Brigitta became pregnant.
Herman began using drugs. He also began to beat her. When he
was under the influence of drugs, he would beat her, and
when he couldn't get drugs, he would also beat her. He would
slap her on the face, punch her, and kick her. His parents
would tell him not to beat her, but they would never try to
stop him. When his parents would try to get him to stop
using drugs, he would get upset and beat Brigitta. She did
not call the police out of fear that he would beat her even
harder or kill her.
daughter was born in May 1994. They immediately decided to
move to Mexico so that Herman could recuperate from drugs.
For the first two months, things were better. But then, even
though Herman stopped using drugs, he began to go out
drinking with new friends and would return home and beat
Brigitta. When Brigitta became pregnant again, Herman told
her he would change, and they decided to get married. Soon
they returned to live with Herman's parents in California.
Herman began working and did not use drugs. He did drink,
however, and continued to hit Brigitta even though her did
not beat her like before.
was very jealous. He would not file the immigration papers
for Brigitta, telling her that he thought she might leave
him if he completed the papers. Because she was
undocumented, Brigitta was fearful of calling the police,
not knowing what would happen to her and her child if she
their second daughter was born, the situation got worse.
Herman had wanted a boy. When the nurse had mistakenly told
him that the baby was a boy, he was ecstatic. Upon learning
that the baby was a girl, Herman told Brigitta that he did
not love the baby and that they should give her away. He
began to bother the baby constantly.
began using drugs again and was arrested for buying drugs.
Two weeks later, he got out of jail. Four months later, he
began using drugs again and sold all their belonging to buy
drugs. He began beating Brigitta again. He also began
hitting the baby, throwing her and pulling her hair.
Brigitta finally called the police because he was doing
drugs in front of the children. His probation officer put
Herman in jail for a month and then he was placed in a
residential drug treatment program for five months. Brigitta
was pregnant with their third child. A few weeks after their
son was born, Herman was released from the treatment
program. While in the program, Brigitta had visited Herman
regularly and he had promised her a new life when he
completed the program.
after he returned, Herman began drinking every day and began
beating Brigitta and the children every day. Many times
Herman beat Brigitta because she was trying to feed and take
care of their second daughter. Herman's parents didn't try
to stop the beatings, even though they lived in the same
house. Finally, with the assistance of her brother-in law,
Brigitta contacted the police. Brigitta had two black eyes,
and her daughter had bruises on her cheeks and her bottom.
When the police arrived, they took a report and transported
them to a shelter. When Herman arrived, he was arrested.
When Brigitta returned several days later to get her things,
her father-in-law would not let her in the house. Her
mother-in-law was angry that Brigitta was leaving even
though she had witnessed the repeated beatings, because she
wanted Brigitta to clean and work for her.
spent six months in jail. Brigitta moved to Minnesota where
her two sisters lived. With the assistance of a domestic
violence program, Brigitta was able to get a protective
order. She decided to divorce Herman. When Herman was
released from jail, he tracked Brigitta down in Minnesota
through her aunt, who is a good friend of Herman's mother.
He came to her house at four in the morning, saying he
wanted to get back together. Brigitta told him that was not
going to happen, that she had a protective order against
him, and that he would have to leave. When he refused to
leave, she called the police. When they arrived, they told
him to leave. Herman returned to California. He called her
from California, telling her that she was going to regret
what she had done. She told him that because of the
protective order, he could not bother her anymore.
is beginning a new life. She now lives without the fear of
being beaten or having her children beaten. She needs the
continued assistance of her brothers, sisters, cousins, and
other family in Minnesota who have helped her. The only
family she has left in Mexico is her father who drinks and
beat Brigitta when she was a child. She does not want her
children to suffer as she did. In Mexico she would not be
able to protect herself from Herman and fears for the safety
of herself and her three American born children. Herman has
many friends and family in the same town that she would
return to if she were forced to return to Mexico to obtain
her green card. If he began harassing Brigitta or her
children in Mexico, there would be no place for her to go
for help. She would not have the protection of the court,
the police, or the victims advocate groups that she has
relied on in the U.S.
case originated in New Mexico.
is originally from Mexico. She met her husband, Jaime, a
naturalized United States citizen, while he was visiting his
relatives in Mexico. Blanca and Jaime fell in love and were
married. They moved to New Mexico to begin their lives as
husband and wife.
a few weeks of their marriage, Jaime began to insult Blanca,
telling her she was stupid and worthless. He called her
names and would yell at her when he would get angry. Soon
the abuse became physical. Jaime would push and slap Blanca
whenever he would get frustrated or angry, and these attacks
would leave bruises and welts on Blanca's face and body. He
would also throw household objects at her, such as vases and
furniture, and he would pull her hair and throw her across
the room when he was in a rage. The abuse escalated to the
point where Jaime was beating Blanca every week and
screaming insults at her every day. Blanca began to fear
that Jaime would kill her.
Blanca's marriage to Jaime, they had two children. Jaime
would often abandon Blanca and the children for weeks at a
time, leaving them with no food or money to pay rent. Blanca
begged Jaime to file for her legal immigration status so
that she could get work authorization, but Jaime refused to
let her work. As a result, Blanca felt helpless and
dependent on Jaime for her and her babies' food, clothing,
pattern of abandoning her and the children continued
throughout the marriage. At one point, Jaime insisted that
Blanca and the children move with him to Mexico. Jaime had
found work in Mexico, and he wanted the family to accompany
him there. When Blanca protested that she did not want to
return to Mexico because of the inadequate medical resources
and schooling opportunities for the children, Jaime
threatened that if she did not come with him to Mexico, he
would kill her. For the next few days, Jaime beat Blanca and
repeated his threat to kill her until Blanca became so
frightened that she agreed to move with him to Mexico.
in Mexico, Jaime's physical abuse of Blanca only increased.
Blanca attempted to call the Mexican police on one occasion
after Jaime pummeled her body with his fists and left her
bruised and bleeding from the mouth, but the police never
responded to her calls. Blanca felt very isolated while she
was living in Mexico, since almost all of her family had
long since moved to California. There were no shelters for
battered women and no way to be protected from Jaime's
violence. Unfortunately, she had no one but Jaime to rely on
for support in Mexico, and Jaime would often leave Blanca
and the children for weeks at a time without money and food.
Blanca and the children moved back to the U.S. Jaime
continued to live mainly in Mexico, although he would travel
to the U.S. from time to time to visit Blanca unexpectedly.
During these visits, he would beat her. It was also at this
time that Blanca discovered the devastating fact that Jaime
had sexually abused their two children. Blanca did not know
how long the sexual abuse had been going on, but her
children and her children's school teachers had informed her
of the abuse, and her children had been placed in
psychological counseling. Charges were immediately filed
against Jaime, and he was placed under police investigation
for child sexual abuse committed against his own children.
has moved several times in an effort to hide herself and her
children from Jaime. Despite this, Jaime has managed to
track them down and harass and threaten them. Blanca was so
afraid that Jaime would carry out his threat to kill her
that she obtained a restraining order against him. She also
consulted an attorney and filed a VAWA self-petition for
Blanca is forced to return to Mexico as the only way of
getting her green card, she and her children will be in
great danger. Blanca knows that Jaime currently lives in
Mexico, just on the U.S./Mexican border. He knows exactly
where Blanca's few relatives live in Mexico, and he would
know exactly where to look for her if she returned to
Mexico. Because he frequently crosses the border to the U.S.
and stalks her and the children here, Blanca knows that he
is somehow keeping track of her movements. This stalking
behavior by Jaime has forced Blanca to move from place to
place out of fear of him.
Blanca were to return to Mexico with her children, her
restraining order would not protect her in Mexico from
Jaime's abuse. The protection that her restraining order
provides is essential to keeping Blanca safe in the U.S. In
fact, she has relied on her restraining order several times
in the past when Jaime has stalked and threatened her in the
U.S. As a result, Blanca believes that without the
protection of the restraining order in Mexico, Jaime would
not hesitate to abuse or kill her and possibly kidnap the
children. She knows from experience that the Mexican police
would offer her no assistance as a battered woman, and that
her children would not be able to continue their
psychological counseling in Mexico. Therefore, in order for
Blanca and her children to remain safe from their abuser,
Blanca must be allowed to obtain her green card in the U.S.
case originated in New Mexico.
is a 29-year-old native of Mexico. She met her husband,
Bernardo, in Mexico at a town holiday celebration. Bernardo
was visiting his family members in Evangelina's Mexican
hometown. Evangelina was just 21 years old at the time. She
fell in love with Bernardo, who was a lawful permanent
resident of the United States living in New Mexico. When he
asked her to move to New Mexico and become his wife, she
happily accepted his proposal.
couple lived together in the U.S. for almost five years
before they were married. During that time, Evangelina
became pregnant with their daughter, Matilda. Evangelina's
life in New Mexico was a lonely one. She did not leave the
house or make friends in her community because Bernardo
isolated her and refused to let her leave the house alone or
socialize with others. Bernardo was very secretive about his
work and his life outside the home. Evangelina knew he was a
construction worker, but she had no idea where he worked or
how much income he made. She and baby Matilda were
completely dependent upon him for food, clothing, and
baby-care items. Bernardo often denied Evangelina money for
her and the baby's needs, which made Evangelina extremely
anxious and depressed.
soon discovered that Bernardo was drinking large amounts of
alcohol every night. He also began injecting himself with
heroin. His drug and alcohol addiction made him abusive and
violent toward Evangelina, both physically and emotionally.
He began hitting her, slapping her, and shoving her when he
would get drunk and lose his temper. He would also raise his
voice and yell insults at her. Eventually, the abuse
escalated to the point where Evangelina became afraid of her
husband and insisted on leaving him. She asked him to drive
her to her family's home in Mexico, and he agreed to do this
on the condition that he would eventually come back for her.
Evangelina was living with her family in Mexico from January
to March of 1995, she did not tell her family about
Bernardo's abuse of her. She knew that the fact that she was
being abused would humiliate her family, and she feared that
if she left Bernardo and became a single, divorced mother,
she would bring her family both shame and dishonor. In part
because of this concern for her family and her belief that
her daughter should grow up with a father, Evangelina
decided to return to Bernardo. When Bernardo journeyed to
Mexico in April of 1995, he promised Evangelina he would not
beat her or do drugs again, and he begged her to come back
to him. Evangelina sincerely believed that he would change,
so she agreed to marry him and return with him to the U.S.
shortly after returning to the U.S., Bernardo broke his
promise to Evangelina and started using heroin again. His
addiction seemed to be even more severe than it was before.
He stopped bringing home money for the family, and he stayed
away from home for two or three nights at a time. Evangelina
was frantic at the thought of being evicted from their
apartment for not paying rent, and she did not have enough
money to buy food and supplies for her baby daughter. She
asked Bernardo to file for her legal immigration status so
that she could get a job and contribute to the family
income, but Bernardo refused. He began beating her several
times per week, leaving her bloodied and covered with
bruises. He abused her sexually and raped her, as well. One
of these rapes resulted in a second unplanned pregnancy for
Evangelina. Sadly, Evangelina suffered a miscarriage after
Bernardo subjected her to a fierce and merciless beating.
was so frightened after the beating that caused her
miscarriage that she began visiting a neighborhood church in
secret, hoping to find help in escaping Bernardo's abuse.
The church started assisting her in finding battered women's
services, but then Bernardo found out about her visits to
the church, and he threatened to kill her if she left him.
He told her he would hunt her down and kill her wherever she
was, whether in the U.S. or in Mexico. Then he began beating
her on her face and body with his fists. Evangelina called
the police, and Bernardo was arrested and charged with
domestic violence. Evangelina fled to the church with her
daughter and was assisted in obtaining housing, counseling
services, and a restraining order against Bernardo.
Evangelina has received approval of her VAWA self-petition
for residency. If she is forced to return to Mexico to
receive her green card under VAWA, she fears that Bernardo
will carry out his threat to kill her wherever she is,
whether in the U.S. or in Mexico. He is angry at Evangelina
for having him arrested, and he wants Evangelina to return
to him. It will be easy for Bernardo to find her in Mexico,
since he knows where she would stay, and he has his own
family nearby to help and support him. By contrast, both of
Evangelina's parents are deceased, and she has very minimal
resources and support in Mexico. She is very afraid that
Bernardo will hurt or kill her in Mexico, since the police
there will not enforce her U.S. restraining order and
protect her from Bernardo's abuse. For these reasons, she
must be allowed to get her green card in the United States.
case originated in Texas and is currently in New Mexico.
was born in Mexico. She has been living in the United States
with her entire family since she was five years old. When
she was in high school in Texas, she met Tony, a United
States citizen. The two dated and fell in love. Eventually,
they got married.
was physically and emotionally abusive to Berta from the
beginning of their marriage. He would fly into angry,
irrational rages, and he would hit Berta in the face with
his fists, leaving her with black eyes and large bruises on
her face. He would slap and kick her without warning so she
had no opportunity to flee or protect herself. He would
force her to have sex with him against her will. His sexual
abuse of Berta was the most brutal part of their marriage.
He raped her several times and would routinely force her to
perform sexual acts against her will.
and Tony had two children in their marriage. Tony would
often hit Berta and threaten to kill her in front of their
children. In time, Berta became so frightened of Tony's
abuse of her that she fled with her children to a battered
women's shelter. Soon after she fled, Tony sought her out
and made her return home to him. Berta tried leaving Tony on
several other occasions, but each time, he tracked her down
in the shelter where she was hiding and coerced her into
returning home. After all these incidents had taken place,
Berta believed that she would never be able to escape Tony's
abuse. She thought that she would never be safe because he
would always find her and make her return to him.
almost killed Berta during a severe beating that took place
in their home. Berta managed to free herself from him and
run from the house. Her life was in such danger that she had
no time to take her children with her before she fled to a
shelter. She eventually found refuge in New Mexico. When she
tried to return home to get the children, Tony refused to
let her see them. Berta petitioned the court for visitation,
but she was unsuccessful because she was living in a
different state than the children. For the following eight
months, Berta waited for the court to decide whether she
should have physical custody of the children. During that
time, Tony only allowed her to see the children on very
limited terms, and he would tell the children that their
mother had left them and did not want them. Once when Berta
came to visit the children, Tony grew angry at her and hit
her across the face. Shortly afterward, Tony left notice at
their older daughter's school that Berta was not allowed
near her daughter, and that he was to be notified if Berta
ever tried to visit the children at school.
Berta won physical custody of her children, and they moved
to New Mexico with her. Berta got a restraining order
against Tony to protect her from his abuse, but she
continued to fear that he would carry out his threat to kill
her and take their children away from her. Since separating
from Tony, Berta has consulted an attorney and filed a VAWA
petition for residency, which has been approved.
the approval of her VAWA self-petition, Berta will be forced
to return to Mexico to obtain her green card under the law
of VAWA. Returning to Mexico will be extremely difficult and
dangerous for Berta for a variety of reasons. First of all,
Berta has no relatives in Mexico, and she does not speak
fluent Spanish. She has no familiarity with Mexico, since
she has lived in the U.S. almost all her life. Consequently,
if she were forced to return to Mexico, she would be alone
without any financial or emotional support and will have no
ability to communicate effectively in Spanish.
Berta fears that Tony would cross the border to Mexico to
abuse her, as he has promised to do in the past. Tony lives
on the border between Texas and Mexico, and since he is a
U.S. citizen, he would have no trouble crossing the border
and finding Berta in Mexico. He is far more familiar with
the Mexican legal system and geography than Berta, and he
knows where Berta would stay in Mexico if she were to return
to get her green card. In addition, Tony knows that Berta's
restraining order would not protect her in Mexico and that
he could freely abuse her or kill her there. Berta is also
concerned that Tony may try to kidnap her two children while
she is in Mexico. She can leave her children with her family
in Texas while she gets her green card in Mexico. While
Berta's protection order also protects her children from
Tony, her family will have difficulty enforcing it against
Tony once Berta leaves the country. Berta does not want to
be separated from her children, and she believes that Tony
may try to kidnap them while she is not there to protect
them. Tony has demonstrated in the past that he will go to
great lengths to find Berta and cause her pain and terror.
Therefore, Berta should be allowed to stay in the U.S. so
that she may keep herself and her children safe from Tony's
case originated in North Carolina.
is a citizen of Mexico. She met and married her husband,
Federico, in Mexico, and had five children with him there.
The 13-year relationship was an extremely abusive one for
Miranda. In fact, the only reason why she moved to the
United States in the first place was to protect her children
from Federico, who threatened to take them with him to the
U.S. and leave Miranda behind in Mexico. Federico had gotten
a job as an agricultural worker in the United States and had
later secured his status as a lawful permanent resident of
the United States. Miranda thought if she came to the U.S.,
she would be able to protect her children from Federico.
Miranda was unable to protect her children, especially her
13- and 15-year-old daughters, from Federico's sexual abuse
and extreme cruelty. On an almost daily basis, Federico
would bite the girls' breasts, kick them in the head, hit
them with shoes, and throw household objects at them. He
would also beat the other children and Miranda, as well.
Miranda endured a severe beating by Federico that resulted
in a miscarriage. She also suffered each day with pain, as
Federico kicked her in the stomach and head and pushed her
to the floor and into walls. He called Miranda and her
daughters "whores" and "prostitutes,"
and one evening went so far as to hold the entire family at
gunpoint so that no one would leave the house.
attempted to escape from Federico on more than one occasion.
The first time, after he threatened to kill her children and
hide their bodies where "no one would find them,"
Miranda hid with her children in a shelter for almost a
week. She went back to Federico after he found her and the
children and told her that because she was undocumented, the
police would take the children away from her if she did not
return to Federico.
finally left Federico for good after an incident in which he
publicly accused his older daughters of prostituting
themselves and then beat Miranda and her eight-month-old
baby with a large metal chain. Following this incident, the
police arrested Federico, charging him with felony child
abuse, assault, and domestic violence. While Federico was in
jail, Miranda and her children fled the home. They have been
in hiding ever since this event.
is contact with friends who tell her that Federico, who has
since been released, is looking for her and wants to kill
her and her older daughters. Miranda has contacted an
attorney and filed a VAWA self-petition for residency, which
has been approved. If Miranda were to return to Mexico to
get her green card under VAWA, her husband would certainly
find her there. She knows that there would be no help for
her in Mexico. When she was living in Mexico during the
early years of her marriage, she tried to use the church and
law enforcement in Mexico to help her escape Federico's
abuse, but she was told that admitting that there was a
problem would only "cheapen" her marriage. She
knows she would be condemned by her family for
"failing" in her marriage. Furthermore, she is
aware from past experience that the police in Mexico only
offer protection to those who can afford to buy it.
is also fearful of returning to Mexico to get her green card
because the children's custody is in dispute. Federico has
made it very clear that he wants custody of the children. If
Miranda were to return to Mexico, she would have to bring
her children with her in order to support them and watch
over them. Miranda and the children are terrified that
Federico will kidnap the children in Mexico and try to gain
custody of them.
case originated in North Carolina.
is a citizen of Thailand. Kim and her daughter Li first came
to the United States to visit Kim's sister, nieces, and
nephews in North Carolina. During the visit, Kim met a
United States citizen named Luke. Kim and Luke began dating,
going to dinner and chatting. Luke took Kim to meet his
boss, his mother, and his step-father, which made Kim very
happy. After about nine months, Luke proposed, and he and
Kim were married. Kim was excited about her new life with
three weeks after the marriage, Luke flew into an angry rage
for no particular reason. He started screaming at Kim and
took her clothes out of her dresser and threw them all over
the house. Then he shoved her into his car and drove her to
her friend's house, telling her he was "kicking her
out." The very next day, he called her and apologized.
Because Kim wanted to try to make the new marriage work, she
decided to give him another chance.
two months later, Kim had to call the police to stop Luke
from punching, slapping, and pushing her. Kim was very
frightened of the physical abuse Luke had unleashed on her,
and she feared he might hurt or kill her. When the police
arrived, she told them what Luke had done, but she did not
have Luke arrested. She did this because Luke had threatened
to call INS and have her deported if she called the police.
She was afraid of what he would do to her if she had him
arrested, so she allowed him to stay in the house.
would abuse Kim's daughter, Li, as well. He would hide food
from Li and get angry with her when she would eat, saying
what food they had was for him. He also killed the dog that
he had given Li for her birthday, simply to be cruel.
conditions in the house were so bad that Kim and her
daughter often went hungry, since Luke had been fired from
several jobs and had large debts. When Luke had a job, Kim
would try to talk to him about work responsibilities to help
him keep the job, but Luke would get upset, punch her, and
push her out of bed. He took all Kim's money from her
account and kept asking her to give him more money. Kim had
to borrow money to pay rent and was left with little money
from her earnings to buy food. Luke refused to let Kim leave
the house to go shopping for food. When Luke would get angry
at Kim, he would often turn off the oven and tell her she
could not cook because she was using his electricity. In the
winter, he would turn off the heat and make Kim and Li sleep
in the cold bedroom while he slept on the couch, warmed by a
incidents occurred that gave Kim and Li the courage finally
to obtain a restraining order against Luke. Luke flew out of
control on multiple occasions. Sometimes he would get angry
and throw dishes, which would hit the walls. Once he broke
the front door. On another occasion, when Kim and Luke
needed to file their taxes, Luke grew enraged and threw all
of Kim's papers all over the room. Later, Kim went to the
post office to get their tax refund. Kim told Luke that she
would give him the check if he would give her a little money
to buy food. Luke pushed her and said that if she did not
give him the check, he would kill her. He got very angry
again and kicked things around the apartment. This terrified
Kim. She desperately tried to call 911, but he took the
phone from her hand and hid the telephone from her. She went
upstairs and used another phone to call her friend. She
reached her friend's husband, and told him to call the
police. The police came, and told Luke that he could not
kick Kim out.
one Sunday, Kim and Li returned home after a weekend spent
cleaning houses to support the family. They found that Luke
had turned off the heat and electricity, taken the pots and
the microwave, and removed the bed and all of his clothes
from the house. Kim called the police, and when they
arrived, they showed her that the electric panel door to the
meter box had been locked by Luke with a padlock. After this
incident, Kim finally obtained a protection order and left
separating from Luke, Kim has received assistance in filing
her VAWA self-petition for residency. Luke violated Kim's
protection order and Luke appeared before a judge several
times before he finally complied. If she is forced to return
to Thailand as the only way of getting her green card under
VAWA, she will suffer severe emotional trauma. She needs the
protection of U.S. laws to make sure that Luke causes no
further harm to her or her daughter. Further, ever since her
separation from Luke, Kim has suffered from clinical
depression. She is currently being treated for this disease
by a psychiatrist and cannot discontinue the therapy to
journey to Thailand. In addition, she would not be able to
get this necessary treatment in Thailand, nor could she
access support from family or friends in Thailand, since all
her loved ones live in the U.S. Kim is trying to support
herself and her child and rebuild her life after the
difficult period of abuse she suffered living with Luke. For
her mental health and security, she must be allowed to stay
in the U.S. to get her green card.
case originated in North Carolina.
is originally from Mexico. She entered the United States
with her daughter and son six years ago, and they settled in
North Carolina with Margarita's parents, brothers, and
sisters. She later met Nolan, a lawful permanent resident of
the United States originally from Trinidad. Margarita and
Nolan started dating over the next year-and-a-half. They
married after Margarita gave birth to their first child, a
Margarita and Nolan were married, Nolan told Margarita that
he would help her get her immigration papers, but then he
said the only way he could keep Margarita in the house was
if she was illegal. Soon Nolan began to assert power over
Margarita by abusing her constantly. He would strike her on
her face and body with his fists. He would also beat
Margarita and her seven-year-old son with belts. Each time
Margarita would attempt to call the police after one of
these beatings, Nolan would threaten to have her deported
and take her children away from her. Margarita believed
Nolan when he told her that the police themselves would
alert the INS immigration officials and send them to the
house to deport her and separate her from her children.
several occasions, Nolan beat Margarita so brutally that she
feared for her life and had to flee the house, taking only
her children and the clothes on her back. Each time she did
this, Nolan would seek her out and force her to return to
him, again threatening to take her children away from her.
The beatings became more severe and more violent each time
Margarita returned home to Nolan. He told her one of these
days he would kill her.
Margarita and Nolan had a second daughter in 1997, the
violence escalated. Nolan would beat her and kick her and
the children out of the house, leaving them with no home and
no place to go. In November of 1997, Margarita fled the
house for the final time following a bloody beating by
Nolan. She tried to stay at a shelter, but she could not be
admitted because her daughter was sick with the chicken pox.
She then went to her mother-in-law's house to seek refuge.
Nolan followed her there and beat her face with his fists in
front of his mother and aunt. Then he tried to choke her to
death. Margarita barely managed to escape with her life and
flee to a battered women's shelter that would accept her and
her children. She started going to counseling at the shelter
and filed a VAWA self-petition for residency, which was
order to obtain her lawful permanent residency, Margarita
will be forced to return to Mexico to obtain her green card.
Taking this trip will pose a severe hardship to Margarita,
since she has no family in Mexico to support her and her
four children while she gets her green card. Further, since
the two children she had with Nolan are of mixed race, they
will suffer discrimination and be taunted by the other
children in Margarita's village in Mexico. She is still
living in the shelter with her four children, and she is
unable to discontinue the mental health counseling she is
receiving to help her cope with the abuse she suffered with
Nolan. Without sufficient finances, family support in
Mexico, or regular mental health counseling available,
Margarita will be too emotionally debilitated to travel to
Mexico to get her green card.
case originated in the Virgin Islands.
is a citizen of Trinidad. Her life has been filled with
betrayal, pain, and physical and mental abuse at the hands
of both her first and second husbands. Her first husband was
a citizen of Trinidad named Mario. He intimidated her and
beat her throughout their marriage and threatened to kill
her on several occasions. Even though Úrsula got a
restraining order against him in Trinidad, this did not keep
her safe from his abuse. Police never came to the house to
investigate or arrest Mario when Úrsula reported Mario's
violation of the restraining order. When Úrsula finally
filed for divorce from Mario, the court awarded the family
home to her; but Mario continued to live there and refused
to leave. Despite her appeals to the police, no one helped
Úrsula remove Mario from the home. She was helpless to
change her situation. Mario later told her that if she came
back to the house again, he would burn it down with her in
as Úrsula was trying to put her life back together after
her marriage to Mario, she met Daniel, a native of Trinidad
and lawful permanent resident of the United States. Daniel
came to see Úrsula when she was hospitalized with the
severe injuries that Mario inflicted upon her. He was Úrsula's
knight in shining armor. He helped her and became her friend
when she most needed support after her divorce from Mario.
Soon, Úrsula and Daniel fell in love and got married. Úrsula
never suspected that the kind man she had married would be
just as abusive as her first husband.
brought Úrsula to the U.S. Virgin Islands shortly after
they were married. He had told her that they were simply
going on vacation, but in reality, he had planned for them
to settle in the islands permanently. Not long after the
move to the islands, Daniel started treating Úrsula
abusively. He abused her sexually, making her perform sexual
acts against her will and raping her when she refused. He
would make her sleep on the cold, hard floor when she did
not follow orders or complained about the abuse. He would
also make her perform humiliating and painful tasks in order
to assert his dominance over her. For example, he made her
put tabasco sauce on her panties and wear them all day.
Another time, he locked her out of their house and threw her
belongings out in the yard just before a hurricane hit the
island. He frequently beat Úrsula, leaving her with bruises
and black eyes.
and Daniel had been married for one year when Úrsula
obtained a restraining order against him. The very day Úrsula
received the restraining order, Daniel followed her from the
courthouse to her attorney's office. Later that evening, he
followed Úrsula's attorney home and continued to harass and
stalk her during the next few months. He would also call Úrsula
and threaten to hurt or kill her.
knows that Daniel travels to Trinidad frequently. In fact,
he called her once from Trinidad to harass and threaten her.
Úrsula also knows from her past experience with her
ex-husband Mario that the police and laws of Trinidad will
not protect her from domestic violence. She is extremely
fearful of having to return to Trinidad to get her green
card because her ex-husband Mario has threatened to kill her
if she returns, and her current husband Daniel knows where
she would stay in Trinidad and would take the opportunity to
hurt or kill her there. Úrsula's restraining order against
Daniel is only enforceable within the territories of the
United States; it would not protect her against Daniel's
violence against her in Trinidad.
case originated in California and is currently in
is a 49-year-old woman from a small town in Mexico. There
she met her husband Hector, who is now a lawful permanent
resident of the United States. She met Hector when she was
14, through his cousin, who was a friend of her's. The two
began dating, and Hector treated Cristina well throughout
their courtship. Later that year, he invited her to live
with him and his mother. Cristina agreed, but once she moved
in, her problems with Hector began.
the first week of living together, Hector grew extremely
jealous and demanded to know the names of all Cristina's
previous sexual partners. Cristina truthfully insisted that
she had never been with any other man, but Hector refused to
believe her. A few days later, he brought her to an isolated
spot by a river and again demanded that she reveal who else
she had been with. Then Hector took a tree branch and beat
Cristina repeatedly on the torso.
months later, Cristina discovered she was pregnant. Hector's
violence and jealousy was worsening, and in the fifth month
of her pregnancy, Cristina decided to leave him. Hector was
seeing another woman at the time, and constantly telling
Cristina that this other woman was better than her. On one
such occasion, he proceeded to punch Cristina in the face
and beat her with his belt.
traveled to stay with her mother and lived peacefully until
six months after the baby was born. Then, in the spring of
1968, Hector came looking for Cristina. He told her he did
not want her to marry anyone else, and he did not want
anyone else to be the father of his child. He was very
persuasive, and convinced Cristina that if they got married,
everything would be different.
couple was married that summer and then returned to Hector's
home to live with his family. Despite his promises, the
situation did not improve. Hector began to drink more and
more often, and would beat Cristina approximately once a
week. He mostly used his fists and feet to batter Cristina,
often striking her in the face and leaving her with a
bleeding nose. On one occasion, he left her entire hip
bruised after kicking her while she was trapped sitting in a
the years, Cristina gave birth to six more children, but the
abuse did not end. Once in 1975, Hector came home in the
middle of the night drunk. He knocked on the door, but
Cristina did not answer because she was afraid of him and
what he might do while intoxicated. She stayed in bed and
hoped he would stay outside until he grew sober. Later,
after the pounding on the door subsided, Cristina went to
the door and found Hector enraged. He was livid that she had
not opened the door and accused her of being with another
man that night. He started tearing the room apart, looking
for the man he imagined to be hiding there. He overturned
everything in the bed, including four of the children. He
then grabbed Cristina by the hair and started hitting her in
the face, back and forth, from side to side. Hector's mother
came into the room to see what was happening, and while she
distracted Hector, Cristina climbed up on the roof of the
nearby house of Hector's brother. Hector went out of the
house with a machete and started attacking the grasses and
weeds around the house looking for Cristina. She hid on the
roof for two hours, only coming down after Hector left.
children were extremely affected by this incident,
especially their eldest daughter, who still remembers it
clearly. Cristina wanted desperately to leave Hector after
this, but she felt she had no choice but to stay. She had
many young children and no job or skills to support them.
There was no one in her family who was able to give shelter
or financial support to her and her young children.
had been traveling to the United States to work since 1970,
and had received permanent resident status. He brought the
older children to live with him there, and then Cristina and
the younger children. However, the abuse continued. Once in
1990, Hector became angry and began insulting and verbally
abusing Cristina. Their oldest son, Mateo, asked Hector to
stop and to calm down, but this only made Hector angrier. He
began throwing things at Mateo, which terrified Cristina and
the children. They all fled the house and spent the night in
a public park, only returning after they were sure he was
sober the next day.
more episodes of domestic violence occurred through the
years. During one incident in 1992, Hector repeatedly hit
Cristina in the face, and one of the children called the
police. Cristina was afraid to press charges, but Hector was
prosecuted and jailed anyway. When he got out of jail, he
threatened to deport Cristina and the children. In 1993,
while Hector was drinking, he thrust a knife toward her as
if to cut her. Cristina ran out and stayed away until she
was sure he was asleep. In 1994, Hector became enraged
because Cristina had come home late from work. He started to
hit her and she called the police. When the police came and
detained him, he again threatened to have Cristina and the
1995, their son Miguel moved to Washington, D.C. and invited
Hector to join him, to get him away from Cristina. However,
once Hector was in Washington, he complained about his
situation, saying that Miguel could not cook for him or
socialize with him. He convinced Cristina to join him, and
told her it would be a new beginning for them. For the first
few months, everything was peaceful, but Hector soon began
drinking excessively again. He would stay up all night,
drinking and blasting music, keeping the household awake.
Any complaints about this behavior were met with verbal
abuse. By summer of 1998, Hector was in the routine of
getting drunk every Friday night and drinking continuously
all through the weekend, day and night.
Saturday at 2:00 a.m., he ran out of alcohol and awoke
Cristina, believing she had stolen it. Cristina, who had to
work at 5:00 that morning, asked Hector to leave her alone,
but he was obsessed. He demanded that she give him back his
alcohol or give him money to buy more. When Cristina told
him the stores were closed, he began to throw things and
tear the apartment apart looking for alcohol. Their daughter
Marcia woke up and begged Hector to stop, telling him no one
had taken his alcohol. Hector became enraged, and started
punching Cristina in the face, head, and neck. When Marcia
tried to stop him, he grabbed her hair and started to attack
her as well. Marcia got away and called the police, and this
time Cristina pressed charges. She finally realized Hector
would never change.
filed a self-petition for residency under VAWA, but is
terrified to return to Mexico for consular processing. She
now has a protective order against Hector, but in Mexico her
protective order is not valid. Hector is currently living in
Mexico where he fled after criminal charges were brought
against him and after Cristina obtained her civil protection
order. He would surely be able to find her there. In Mexico,
he would not be prosecuted there for his violence.
Cristina's children and American citizen grandchildren live,
work, and go to school in this country, and she has a job
and support system here. There is nothing left for her in
Mexico, and having to return, even for a few weeks, would
pose a severe financial hardship. Cristina must be permitted
to obtain her green card within the United States, where her
rights and safety will continue to be protected.
case originated in Washington, D.C.
originally from El Salvador, came to the United States with
her daughter in 1984. While visiting her family in
Washington, D.C., Lita's brother introduced her to his
friend Alfonso, a lawful permanent resident. She thought
Alfonso seemed like a good person, and they began dating.
long, Lita realized she was pregnant, and she and her
daughter moved in with Alfonso. Their son was born later
that year. Lita and Alfonso were content for the first two
years of their relationship, but problems began in 1989,
when Lita was expecting another child.
Lita was three months pregnant, Alfonso came home drunk one
night at about 11:00 p.m. At 1:00 a.m., he wanted to go out
again, but Lita asked him not to. Alfonso got angry and
attacked her, pushing her hard on the shoulders, throwing
her against the wall. After this incident, Lita started
having stomach pains, and ultimately suffered a miscarriage.
that year, Lita went to visit Alfonso at the garage where he
worked. She saw him with another woman, and asked him what
was going on. Alfonso hit her multiple times in the face
with his fist. Lita had bruises all over her face as a
result of this incident. The physical abuse became more and
more commonplace, and it resulted in Lita suffering another
miscarriage in 1991.
her second miscarriage, Alfonso backed down, and things were
peaceful for a few years. Lita had twin girls in 1992, and
another son in 1994. However, when the family moved into a
new apartment, the abuse started again. A neighbor often
complained to Alfonso about the noise the children made, and
these complaints agitated Alfonso. He would take out his
anger on Lita, and began hitting her again. Lita wanted to
move, but Alfonso refused and became abusive whenever she
brought up the subject.
also began to abuse the children. One night when the
neighbor complained about the children's noise, Alfonso hit
his small daughter, who was playing in the apartment. The
hard blow to her face with his open hand resulted a great
deal of swelling. On another night, Alfonso was drinking and
began to beat Lita in front of the children. He hit her and
kicked her three times, and the children all began to cry.
Lita was upset that her children were witness to this
violence and worried about them because they were so afraid.
abuse continues into the present. One morning last month,
when Lita was getting the children ready for school, Alfonso
hit her and shoved her in the back of the head, throwing her
against the wall. A few weeks ago, Alfonso began insulting
and verbally abusing Lita because the children were not
getting ready for school fast enough. He called her obscene
names and then threatened to kill her.
is now self-petitioning for residency under VAWA so that she
will be able to leave Alfonso and exist in this country
independently. It is important that she become a lawful
permanent resident so that she can work to support her
children, who are American citizens, and raise them in the
country of their birth. However, if she is forced to return
to El Salvador to receive her green card, she and her family
face danger. Lita does not have the financial means to take
all the children on such a trip for an indeterminate period
of time, nor does she wish to leave them with Alfonso. He is
abusive toward them, and could also try to achieve sole
custody of them while Lita is out of the country.
Furthermore, Alfonso could follow Lita to El Salvador and
abuse her there, where the law would not protect her. It is
necessary for the safety of Lita and her children that she
be permitted to remain in this country to obtain legal
case originated in Alaska.
is originally from El Salvador. He entered the United States
seven years ago, fleeing intense persecution by the military
group then in power in El Salvador, the FMLN "Guerría."
In El Salvador, Miguel and his family were pursued by the
FMLN when the group rose to power. Miguel witnessed his
father murdered execution-style in front of the family home.
Members of the military beat up his mother before Miguel's
eyes. Then the soldiers raped his sisters. Miguel was so
fearful that the FMLN would continue to punish him by
torturing his family that he went into hiding. He stopped
visiting his family and eventually cut off all contact with
them. In fact, he has not been in contact with his family
for nearly a decade. He continues to fear for their safety
in El Salvador.
Miguel arrived in the U.S., he immediately filed an asylum
petition. He also entered a program of psychotherapy to help
him cope with the horror of what he had witnessed in El
Salvador. Miguel was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress
disorder as a result of the political persecution he had
experienced. Miguel was nervous, unable to sleep, prone to
having frightening nightmares and feelings of fear and
Miguel was undergoing therapy for post-traumatic stress
disorder, he met a supportive friend named Sandra. Sandra
was a U.S. citizen with two children of her own. Sandra and
Miguel fell in love and soon married. It was just after the
marriage that Miguel began to realize that Sandra had
psychological problems of her own. Sandra was demanding,
possessive, and controlling. She was also an alcoholic who
drank heavily. Miguel soon found himself taking care of
Sandra's two children without any help from Sandra. The
situation only grew worse.
morning, as Miguel was getting ready to go to work, Sandra
became angry and belligerent for no reason at all and
refused to give Miguel the car keys. Miguel knew that Sandra
had been drinking heavily all morning. He asked her
patiently for the keys, but she refused to hand them to him.
After much coaxing, Sandra finally gave Miguel the keys, and
Miguel started the car and began to back slowly out of the
driveway. Just then, Sandra opened the passenger side door,
got in, and lunged toward Miguel's chest with a kitchen
knife. Miguel instinctively put his hand up to protect
himself, and the knife sank into the flesh of his hand. He
wrested the knife away from Sandra after a struggle, and he
then rushed to the hospital.
the stabbing, Miguel became nonfunctional. The violence that
Sandra had inflicted upon him aggravated his post-traumatic
stress disorder and caused him to experience flashbacks of
his persecution in El Salvador. Miguel entered a program of
counseling, sought a Restraining Order against Sandra, and
separated from her. Sandra continued to harass Miguel and
threaten him throughout this time. She would also call
Miguel's attorney's office and threaten his attorney and
another staff member. The threats and harassment grew so
intense and frightening that the staff member resigned.
attorney helped him file a VAWA self-petition for residency
on the basis of his status as an abused spouse. His petition
was approved almost immediately. Now Miguel is awaiting his
turn to get his green card. If he is forced to return to El
Salvador as the only way of getting his green card under
VAWA, he and his family may face torture and persecution by
those who forced Miguel's exile from the country. Miguel has
not contacted his family for almost ten years because he
fears that such contact would put the family in grave
danger. Miguel knows that going back to El Salvador would
result in his own death and the possible torture or murder
of his family members. In addition, Miguel's therapist has
stated that Miguel would likely become nonfunctional with
terror were he forced to return to El Salvador. The
post-traumatic stress disorder he now experiences has
increased in severity ever since Sandra stabbed him. His
therapist does not believe that Miguel would be able to cope
with a return to his native country.
case originated in Colorado.
was born in Argentina. She came to the United States to make
a better life for herself. In Colorado, she met and married
a lawful permanent resident of the United States named
Ubaldo. Lucinda and Ubaldo were very much in love when they
married, and the future seemed bright. Ten months after
their wedding, Lucinda gave birth to their daughter, Jane.
was soon after Jane's birth that Ubaldo began to behave
irrationally and violently. He hit Lucinda for the first
time after they had an argument in March of 1996. Ubaldo
became consumed with rage, shouting obscenities at Lucinda
and faking punches at her. He grabbed her around the neck
and shook her so violently that her neck and arms became
mottled with bruises. Then he threw her against the wall
with such force that Lucinda's body smashed a hole in the
wall. Ubaldo then called a cousin to take Lucinda away
before he killed her.
this incident, Lucinda wanted to call the police, but she
was afraid. Ubaldo had told her many times that she was an
"illegal" and had no rights. He said that if she
reported anything to the police, she would be deported and
he would get custody of their daughter. Since Lucinda did
not have legal status, and she was very afraid of losing her
daughter, she kept quiet about the abuse and did not call
abuse continued through the next year of their marriage. One
day, while Ubaldo was driving Lucinda to her job as a
Spanish interpreter, he lashed out at her with violence. He
was angry because a check he had written for car insurance
had bounced. He stopped the car and reached across the
passenger seat to grab Lucinda and shake her with great
force. He slammed her head repeatedly into the passenger's
side window, and ripped her sweatshirt sleeves at the seams
with the shaking. Ubaldo eventually got out of the car and
began kicking the tires and opening and shutting the
driver's side door. Lucinda seized the opportunity to slide
into the driver's seat and flee, leaving Ubaldo by the side
of the road.
left Ubaldo soon after this incident. She consulted an
attorney who helped her file her VAWA self-petition for
residency. Now, she is facing the prospect of returning to
Argentina as the only way of getting her green card under
VAWA. Such a return to Argentina would create a serious
hardship for Lucinda and her daughter.
she may be unable to take her daughter with her if Ubaldo
has joint custody. Lucinda has been and remains Jane's
primary care giver, so a long-term separation between mother
and daughter for an undetermined period of weeks or months
could result in permanent psychological damage to their
daughter. Even if she could take her daughter with her, she
would be forced to separate the girl from her father in
violation of court orders leading to her potentially being
charged with parental kidnaping. Such a separation would
also emotionally devastate Lucinda, who has been trying to
regain stability and peace in her life after the physical
and emotional ordeal of her married life.
case originated in Colorado.
is originally from Mexico. She entered the United States 14
years ago with her family. While living in Colorado, she met
a man named Guillermo. Guillermo is a lawful permanent
resident of the United States originally from Mexico. Luisa
and Guillermo dated for a year before they married in a
church in Colorado. Luisa was very much in love with
Guillermo, and she hoped that their lives together would be
filled with joy.
was not long after the birth of their first child that
Guillermo started abusing Luisa. He would come home drunk
almost every night. Luisa came to fear the sound of his
footsteps coming through the doorway, since he was often in
a terrible mood, filled with anger and completely out of
control. He would destroy furniture, yell and insult Luisa,
and tell her that she was worthless and a bad wife. Luisa
would try to calm him down so his screaming would not wake
the baby, but this only made Guillermo angrier. He would
usually slap Luisa across the face, but other times he would
kick her or punch her with his fists all over her face and
body. The severity of the beatings depended on Guillermo's
mood, but the unpredictability of his violence always
terrified Luisa. She began to fear that he would kill her or
hurt their child in one of his rages.
the next few years of their marriage, Guillermo and Luisa
had three more children. The abuse only escalated over time.
Luisa tolerated Guillermo's abuse because she feared that
Guillermo would have her deported and take her children away
from her. He would often threaten to call the INS when he
was angry, telling her "you'll never see the children
endured one final beating from Guillermo in April of 1998.
Guillermo began shouting at Luisa for spending money on food
and clothing for herself and the children. He screamed
insults at Luisa, and then he began shouting insults at the
children, who were cowering in the back of the room. Luisa
quietly told the children to go into the bedroom as she
feared that Guillermo would harm them. As soon as the
children left the room, Guillermo grabbed Luisa and dragged
her across the room. He hurled her across the room and
watched as her body crashed against the wall and sank to the
floor. Guillermo then picked her up and shook her violently,
slapping her repeatedly across the face. The children in the
other room were so afraid that they called the police.
Guillermo fled before the police arrived, and a warrant was
issued for his arrest.
this incident, Luisa received a permanent restraining order
against Guillermo. She continues to live in fear that
Guillermo will come back to the house and kill her. She
knows that the restraining order is the only thing keeping
her and her children safe from his violence.
has also applied for legal immigration status under VAWA.
When it comes time for her to get her green card, she will
be required to return to Mexico to obtain her green card.
This will pose a very serious hardship to Luisa and her
children, since Luisa is the sole supporter of her four
children and has no one to leave them with in the United
States while she returns to Mexico. She cannot finance a
trip to Mexico for herself and her four U.S. citizen
children, and she is unwilling to remove the children from
school for the period of weeks or months that it will take
to get her green card. In addition, Luisa is afraid to leave
the United States, since it is the only place where her
restraining order against Guillermo is valid. She faces the
possibility of Guillermo following her to Mexico, the
country of his birth, and hurting her and kidnaping the
case originated in Colorado.
was born in El Salvador. She was only 16 years old when she
gave birth to her daughter, Iliana. Dalia watched her mother
die in El Salvador from lack of medicine and feared that
baby Iliana might become ill from poor nutrition. Since the
rest of her family had already fled to the United States
during the war, Dalia decided to come to the U.S., as well.
She wanted to make a better life for herself and her child.
At the age of 18, she crossed the border and settled in
years later, Dalia started dating a man named Alejandro. He
was a Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States
originally from El Salvador. Dalia and Alejandro soon fell
in love and got married. Dalia was happy and excited to
begin a new life with the man she loved, and she thought her
daughter would be better off having a strong father figure
in the house.
three years after Dalia and Alejandro's marriage, Dalia
discovered a secret that would shatter her family's life.
Iliana, now ten years old, revealed to her mother that
Alejandro had been sexually molesting her. Dalia was
horrified to hear this, and she began closely observing
Alejandro's attentions towards her daughter. What she saw
made her even more suspicious of him. When she confronted
Alejandro, he denied molesting Iliana and became very angry
at Dalia. He told her that she had better not make any
accusations or he would have her sent back to El Salvador.
more for her daughter than herself, Dalia went to the
police. The police conducted a thorough investigation and
determined that, based on the testimony of Iliana and the
confession of Alejandro, Alejandro was guilty of child
sexual abuse. Alejandro fled back to El Salvador before the
trial took place..
then, Dalia has petitioned for and obtained her visa
approval under VAWA. However, she will be forced to return
to El Salvador in order to get her green card, under current
law. Making Dalia return to El Salvador for this purpose is
a terrible hardship because she has no family left in El
Salvador and no viable means of supporting herself and
Iliana there. In addition, she is afraid that Alejandro, who
lost his possibility of living in the U.S. because she
pressed charges against him, is in El Salvador and plotting
revenge on Dalia for having him arrested. Since the
authorities in El Salvador cannot protect her from
Alejandro, Dalia fears returning to her home country, no
matter the length of the visit.
has started taking English lessons and has secured a job.
She and Iliana are attending counseling sessions which are
necessary to help them recover from the horrors that
Alejandro committed against them. They do not have the
emotional strength to endure a long journey to El Salvador,
especially without friends or relatives in El Salvador to
help, support, and protect them from Alejandro.
case originated in Colorado.
is a 25-year old citizen of Mexico. She entered the United
States without inspection at age 14. She met her husband,
Moisés, the same year she entered the United States. A year
later, when Alicia was 15, she moved in with Moisés and
married him in January, 1986. Moisés is a lawful permanent
resident of the United States.
began abusing Alicia when their first child, Donald, was
four months old. Alicia asked Moisés for money to pay for
Donald's vaccinations, since Moisés controlled all the
money in the household. Moisés refused to give her any
money, and he grew angry and shouted obscenities at her. Not
knowing what else to do, Alicia took the money from his
jacket. Moisés responded by repeatedly slapping Alicia
across the face.
time passed and Alicia began to talk of leaving Moisés, he
intensified his control over her and his violent attacks. He
left Alicia alone in the house for long periods of time
without money or food. When she made plans to move in with
her brother, Moisés found out and severely beat her. He
held a pistol to her head and told her that she would never
leave him and that she would always belong to him.
grew tired of being unable to pay for her two-year-old son's
needs, so she returned to work. At that point, Moisés
stopped contributing to the household expenses and demanded
that Alicia fulfill both the financial and domestic needs of
the house. Alicia worked for two years until the birth of
her twin girls, Kelly and Lesley. Moisés refused to return
to his regular work hours, despite Alicia's pleas. As a
result, Alicia returned to work full-time only six months
after the birth of the twins.
evening, Alicia was forced to work late cleaning offices.
When she returned home a half-hour later than usual, Moisés
began throwing objects at her face and body. He then lunged
at her and knocked her into the television. Alicia fell onto
the floor, and Moisés began kicking and hitting her.
Alicia's niece grabbed the children and rushed them into
another room so that they would not see their father beating
their mother so horribly.
beat Alicia for the final time in early February of 1998. He
began smacking her across the face and pummeling her body
with his fists. Fearing for her life and the children's,
Alicia attempted to call the police, but Moisés had
disconnected and hidden the phone. The following morning,
she fled to a domestic violence shelter and obtained a
restraining order against Moisés. Later, she consulted an
attorney and filed her VAWA self-petition.
VAWA, Alicia must return to Mexico in order to obtain her
green card. If she does this, she will be in great danger.
Alicia's husband has threatened to kill her, and in Mexico
he would have an opportunity to do so. Moisés is from the
same town as Alicia in Mexico, and he travels there
frequently to visit his family. He would have no trouble
finding her when she returns with the children to get her
green card. Because of this, Alicia is unable to return to
Mexico. She knows that law enforcement officials in Mexico
will not protect her from Moisés and that her U.S.
restraining order will be useless in Mexico.
case originated in Kentucky.
is a 20-year-old woman originally from El Salvador. She
arrived in Kentucky in January of 1993 to visit her sister
because things were difficult at home. Her family was very
poor and lived crowded in a small house with many extended
family members. Eva decided to stay in Kentucky and soon met
Alberto, a lawful permanent resident also from El Salvador.
After living with her sister for six months, Eva moved in
with Alberto in September of 1993, when she was 15 and he
the beginning, the relationship was very troubled. Alberto
regularly used alcohol and marijuana, and a pattern of
degradation and overt abuse quickly emerged. He repeatedly
beat Eva with his fists, called her obscene names, and
threatened deportation. Once he threw a plate of food not
cooked to his satisfaction into her face. He always
threatened Eva into keeping quiet about the violence. She
was not even allowed to have contact with her sister, who
lived a short distance away.
one occasion the abuse was so severe that Eva called the
police, and Alberto was jailed for one night. When he got
out, he forced Eva to recant her story, and in court she
testified she had lied about the abuse. Alberto had told her
he would have her deported or kill her if she told the truth
on the stand, or if she ever called the police again.
1995, Eva had her first child, and in 1997 another was born.
Eva and Alberto got married a few months before the second
child was born. Alberto often used the children to threaten
Eva, saying that if she did not obey him, he would keep the
children and have her deported. The beatings eventually
became more severe, and he began to force Eva to have sex
with him immediately after he beat her. She would run away
from him until he caught her and raped her, claiming that
sex was her duty because she was his wife. He would accuse
her of infidelity if she was reluctant and non-compliant.
Alberto was at work, Eva stayed in the house, frightened of
doing something to displease him. When he got home from
work, Eva had to have dinner ready and keep the children
quiet. If the babies made any noise, he would hit them and
Eva. Eva wanted to call the police, but if she did Alberto
would beat her and threatened to kill her or have her
deported. He frequently beats the children with belts,
leaving marks. He said that if Eva took the children to the
pediatrician, he would explain away the evidence of their
abuse by saying that Eva was the abuser, and this would get
the past few months, Alberto has been trying to force Eva to
sign divorce papers. He told her he would not allow her to
leave the relationship after they were divorced, and would
not explain to her the purpose of the divorce. Eva believes
Alberto wants a divorce to void the I-130 petition he filed
for her earlier. He knows that once she receives her green
card, she will ask the police for protection, no longer
fearing deportation. Alberto wants to keep Eva illegal so he
can continue to abuse her, knowing she will not call the
police. Once divorced, Eva would be a captive in their house
at Alberto's mercy, with no way to legalize her status.
June of 1998, Alberto came home after drinking and again
tried to force Eva to sign the divorce papers. When she
refused, Alberto became extremely violent in front of their
two sons. He grabbed Eva's hair and forced her to a table to
sign the paper. When Eva again refused, he forced her to the
floor. Eva got up and ran to the bathroom, but Alberto
followed her. He grabbed her neck and said, "if you do
not sign the divorce papers right now, I will kill you
now." He then forced her head into the toilet, sinking
her face under water five times, and closed the lid on her
head. Alberto then ran to the phone and disconnected it from
the wall. Eva ran to her room, and Alberto followed and
tried to choke her. He then said to her, "I will not
kill you today, because I need you to sign the divorce
papers first. The second time you try to call the police
they will come to get your dead body."
next day, Eva called her sister and had her come get her and
the children. They went directly to the police to report the
abuse, and Eva received an order of protection. Eva fears
for her life after having been subject to years of violence
and death threats.
was involved in a guerilla group in El Salvador that has
done a lot of killing. He visits the country in disguise, as
he is wanted by the police. He has an American woman friend
who makes frequent trips to El Salvador for him, and who
once held Eva hostage to hide evidence of a severe beating.
She then offered Eva money to return to El Salvador in
exchange for not alerting the police to her beatings. He has
threatened to have her and her family killed in El Salvador
upon deportation. He claims, "I can have anyone killed
for fifty cents with one phone call," and Eva has no
doubt this is true. In addition, Eva has found evidence of
Alberto's involvement in Satanic practices, and was brutally
beaten upon the discovery.
needs the protection of the United States Courts to enforce
her protective order and she needs the continued support of
mental health counselors and battered women's advocates who
have been assisting her and her sons in overcoming the
devastating effects of the abuse. If she returns to El
Salvador, even briefly, she has no doubt Alberto will follow
her and kill her, or remain in America and arrange to have
her and her family killed. She cannot take her children with
her to El Salvador into such danger, nor can she leave them
behind alone with their abuser. Eva must be permitted to
remain in the United States to become a lawful permanent
resident; this is the only way to ensure the safety and
protect the lives of Eva and her children.
case originated in California and is currently in Oregon.
was born in Guatemala. She fled her war-torn country in 1987
with her infant son in her arms. The guerrillas had
surrounded her rancho in Guatemala, and she and her family
ran from the hills in a desperate attempt to survive. Nuria
entered the United States and applied for political asylum
and eventually found a waitressing job in California. A few
years later, she met Walter, a United States citizen, and in
1991 they moved in together.
the beginning of their relationship, Walter insulted Nuria
and swore at her when she did something to displease him. He
began drinking alcohol on a regular basis, and when he would
get drunk, he would destroy household furniture and frighten
Nuria with his screaming and yelling. Nuria considered
leaving Walter, but she loved him and hoped that he would
change his ways. When they had their first child in 1993,
Nuria felt that she should stay with Walter because the baby
needed to grow up with both a father and a mother. Although
Walter continued drinking and verbally abusing Nuria, she
married him in 1995, just after the birth of their second
Christmas Eve of that year, Walter came home drunk, angry,
and out of control. He destroyed the Christmas tree and
crushed all the Christmas presents, then he knocked the
television set to the floor. Nuria was pregnant at the time,
but he still grabbed her by the shoulders and began shaking
her violently. Then he punched her in the face with his
fists so many times that her mouth and nose were bloody.
Nuria crawled to the kitchen and called the police, who
arrived immediately and took Walter to jail.
decided after the Christmas Eve attack that she could no
longer risk her and her children's lives by living with her
husband. She received a restraining order against her
husband and began filing her VAWA self-petition for
residency. Because she felt that it was important for her
children to be in contact with their father, she arranged
for them to have supervised visitation with Walter at her
sister's home. Although Walter wanted to get back together
with Nuria, she refused to put herself in danger again.
gave birth to their third child several months later. She
was separated from Walter at that time, and he refused to
pay child support for his three children. Consequently,
Nuria was forced to return to work full-time only six weeks
after the baby's birth. She spent the next year working and
supporting herself and her children. In April of 1998,
Walter came by her house unannounced and began pushing Nuria
across the room, threatening to give her a "good
beating." He told her that he had asked some of his
male friends to come over so that they could have sex with
her. Nuria ran outside and got in the car. Walter followed
her and smashed the windshield of the car and punctured all
four tires. A neighbor called the police, and Walter was
that incident, Nuria realized that she would have to move
far away from Walter if she hoped to escape his abuse. She
took her children to a battered women's shelter 700 miles
away in California, located near another sister's house.
Nuria is now enrolled in a nurse's aid training course, and
her children are enrolled in school. She still fears that
Walter will find her and abuse her again.
Nuria is forced to return to Guatemala to get her green
card, she will risk losing custody of her children to
Walter. She will have to leave her children behind in the
U.S. while she gets her green card, since she cannot afford
a trip to Guatemala for herself, let alone for her four
children. She is concerned that Walter will petition for
custody of the children while she is out of the country, or
that he might try to kidnap the children while she is not
there to protect them. Nuria cannot be certain that her
family members will be able to protect themselves and her
four children from Walter's violence should he come for them
while she is in Guatemala. She is also very afraid to leave
the U.S. to get her green card because she has no family in
Guatemala to support her, and she would suffer emotional
trauma if she returned to the place where she last endured
war and political persecution.
case originated in Washington.
was born in El Salvador. She fled the war there in early
1990 and entered the United States. Shortly after her
arrival, she met Armando, a lawful permanent resident of the
United States who was from Sara's hometown in El Salvador.
Coincidentally, both Sara and Armando's families knew one
another in El Salvador. Armando had originally come to the
United States in the early 1980s, obtaining his residency
status through the Salvadoran Legalization Program.
several months of dating, Sara and Armando were married.
Almost immediately after the wedding, Sara began to realize
that Armando had a terrible temper and was prone to violent
outbursts. Whenever he would become angry, he would hit Sara
or throw things at her. He would often punch or slap her in
the face. When Sara would attempt to leave him, he would
threaten to have her deported. Armando also used Sara's
undocumented status as a weapon against her. After
assaulting her, he would try to get her to stay with him by
offering to fill in her paperwork for her green card.
Despite his promises, he never made any attempt to petition
for Sara's legal immigration status.
Armando subjected Sara to a particularly severe beating in
1995, Sara's screams were so loud that neighbors called the
police. Armando was arrested and sent to jail for a couple
of weeks. Once he was released, he violated the no contact
order issued by the court and moved back into the house with
Sara. Sara did not want him back in the house, but she was
afraid of being deported and knew that she could not support
their three young children without his income. She had no
idea that services might be available to help her out of her
found out about shelters for battered women through a friend
at church. Sara had been wanting to leave Armando for quite
a while. She had been growing increasingly more fearful of
him, and his violent attacks had not subsided over time.
Despite her many fears, Sara fled the family home one day
with her three children and went to a shelter. She has been
living in confidential housing since that time.
the support of the shelter, Sara and her children have
gotten counseling to help them cope with Armando's violence
and abuse. Sara has received a restraining order against
Armando, and her visa petition under VAWA has been approved.
Now Sara is trying to build a new life for herself as a
single mother, supporting her children entirely on her own.
She is attending English classes and has also found a
has had no contact with Armando since she fled their home
and obtained a restraining order against him. She fears that
if he finds her, he will try to make her come back to him.
She knows that going back to Armando would mean suffering
more physical and emotional abuse at his hands.
Sara is forced to return to El Salvador to get her green
card under VAWA, Armando will quickly learn that she has
returned and will likely follow her there. Her return to El
Salvador will surely be discovered by Armando's family,
since Sara and Armando are from the same town. Once the word
spreads to Armando, Sara and the children will not be safe
from him. He will likely hurt Sara or try to take the
children away from her. Her protection order will be useless
to protect her in El Salvador. For these reasons, Sara
cannot go back to El Salvador to get her green card.
case originated in Washington.
was born in Mexico. In 1993, when she was thirteen, she came
to the United States along with her mother, sister, and two
brothers. Juana's step-father, Mateo, was already living in
the United States when Juana and the rest of the family came
to live with him. Mateo is a lawful permanent resident of
the United States. Juana's two brothers are Mateo's natural
children, and Juana and her sister are Mateo's
the family arrived in the U.S., Mateo did not petition for
their residency status. In fact, he repeatedly threatened to
have Juana, her mother, and her sister deported whenever he
would become angry at them. Mateo's violent, abusive nature
began to rear its ugly head. He would beat Juana's mother
severely in front of all of the children. Juana, being the
oldest child, took the brunt of the beatings for the
children. Mateo beat Juana with belts whenever he displeased
her. Once, he beat her after church for getting her clothes
would also monitor Juana's movements very closely. One
evening, when Juana came home 20 minutes late, Mateo dragged
her to the car by her hair, forced her into the back seat,
and drove her to a remote place near the woods. There, he
pulled her from the car and attempted to strangle and kill
her. After a long struggle, Juana miraculously managed to
free herself and escape into the woods. When police arrived
on the scene, Juana was immediately placed in Child
Protective Services, along with her younger sister.
is now 20 years old. She has not had contact with her
step-father or with her mother since Juana and her sister
were removed from the home for their own protection. The
state went forward with the prosecution of Mateo on charges
of child abuse. Quite obviously, Juana is extremely afraid
of Mateo ever finding her or her sister and seeking revenge
on them with acts of violence. If Juana had to return to
Mexico to get her green card under VAWA, she is afraid that
Mateo would follow them and abuse them.
is also afraid of going to Mexico because she knows no one
there, and she has not been back since she was a child. All
her family now live in the U.S. Juana is not familiar with
Mexico, and she does not know how she would make the trip
without contacts in Mexico or experience with the Mexican
legal system. Furthermore, Juana is afraid of being
separated from her younger sister, with whom she now lives.
Juana's sister is developmentally delayed and only
marginally functional. She requires Juana's constant help
and care, and the girls have lived with and relied on one
another ever since they came to America. They have endured
the horrifying ordeal of abuse and violence at the hands of
their step-father, and now they cannot face the prospect of
separating. Both girls have approved VAWA self-petitions,
and both will have to return to Mexico under the law of VAWA
to get their green cards. Even if the girls could make the
trip together, they would be vulnerable to attacks by their
step-father, and they would not have legal advocates to help
them at the consulate. They would be helpless and alone in a
country completely foreign to them. Juana cannot risk her
and her sister's safety and emotional well-being by
returning to Mexico for any period of time.
case originated in Washington.
is a 26-year-old Mexican man with cerebral palsy. After his
mother died, he came to the United States to be cared for by
his cousins. A couple of years later, he met Caroline, a
U.S. citizen. Felipe and Caroline quickly became friends and
started dating. After about six months of dating, Caroline
suggested that Felipe move in with her. Felipe was concerned
that he would be a drain on her resources, since he was
undocumented and also had a disability. Caroline spent the
next few months reassuring Felipe that their lives together
would be wonderful. Finally, after much convincing, Felipe
finally moved in with her.
were married a year later. Felipe was very happy and thought
that Caroline loved him as he loved her. Unfortunately,
shortly after their marriage, Felipe's happiness faded away.
Caroline began subjecting him to on-going insults and
emotional abuse. She would order him around and threaten to
call the INS to have him deported if he did not do what she
wanted. She would say such things as: "I only married
you because I felt sorry for you. I deserve better than you.
If you don't do as I say, I won't fix your papers."
two teenage sons also lived with them. The teenagers would
repeatedly assault Felipe, hitting him with their fists,
kicking him, and taunting him with insults and threats. They
would do this in Caroline's presence, and she would do
nothing to help Felipe. Caroline would also routinely
withhold Felipe's medication from him and refuse to assist
him with the money to buy medication.
a particularly brutal beating by Caroline's sons, Felipe was
rushed to the emergency room by his cousin. Following that
incident, Felipe was too afraid to return to Caroline's
home. He moved back in with his cousins and contacted an
attorney. Since that day, he has petitioned for his
residency under VAWA, and his petition has been approved.
has a significant, degenerative disability which renders him
only marginally functional. He requires constant care and
supervision, as well as an ongoing medical regime of
treatment. Because of his disability and his need for care
in the U.S., Felipe would face severe hardship if he were
forced to return to Mexico to get his green card under VAWA.
Felipe has no family in Mexico to care for him if he
returns. His only family is here in the United States. In
addition, his ability to make the trip to Mexico and
successfully find his way to the consular offices to get his
green card is extremely limited. He would need help and
support to make the journey, and he cannot get that support
case originated in Oklahoma.
is originally from Mexico. Ten years ago, she met and fell
in love with her husband Joe, a United States citizen, and
married him in Mexico. Throughout the following years of
their marriage, Clara was forced to move back and forth
across the U.S./Mexican border with Joe, depending on
whether Joe was working in the U.S. or in Mexico at the
time. As a result of the constant moving, some of Clara and
Joe's five children were born in the U.S., and some were
born in Mexico.
and Joe's marriage was marked by violence and abuse from the
very beginning. Joe would grow angry and beat Clara on a
regular basis. He also abandoned his family on more than one
occasion. For example, when Joe was working in Mexico and
Clara and the children were living in Texas, he was
imprisoned for running guns across the border. While Joe was
in prison, Clara and the children had no means of support.
Clara was also pregnant at the time. When she gave birth to
their fifth child, she had no money to pay rent and no food
to feed the children. Joe had controlled her movements so
completely that she was completely dependent on him and had
no idea how to seek help for herself and her children.
Finally, Clara's family came from Mexico to bring Clara and
the children back to Clara's hometown.
Joe was released from prison, he found out where Clara was
living in Mexico. Then he came to her house armed with an
ice pick. He lunged at her stomach with the ice pick, and
Clara jumped out of the way and wrested the pick away from
him. Joe began beating Clara's face with his fists. He
grabbed her by the neck and strangled her until she lost
consciousness. Clara came to in the passenger seat of his
car. Joe was brandishing a gun. He told her that they were
driving to her parents' house to get the children, and then
they were leaving for the United States. He threatened to
kill their four-year-old son Billy with the gun if Clara did
not reassure her parents that she was all right and wished
to go with Joe.
was nearly paralyzed with fear, but she did what Joe asked.
She walked into her parents' house and told them that she
and Joe were taking the children to America. When they asked
about the cuts and bruises on her face and neck, Clara lied
and said she had been in a car accident earlier that day.
Clara was thinking the whole time about how Joe was sitting
in the car with his loaded gun. She knew that if she did not
come out to the car with the children, he would carry out
his threat and start shooting. Eventually, Clara managed to
get all the children into the car, and she and Joe drove
across the border into the United States. The family settled
in Oklahoma, where Joe's mother lived.
about a month after moving to Oklahoma, Joe attacked Clara
again. He beat her face and body with his fists until she
was covered with blood. Clara grabbed her two youngest
children and rushed out of the house, screaming for help as
she ran down the street. A neighbor called the police, and
Clara and the children were brought to a battered women's
shelter. Clara received a restraining order against Joe and
began filing her VAWA self-petition for residency.
are several reasons why Clara cannot go back to Mexico to
get her green card based on VAWA. First, her youngest child
recently suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed
on one side of his body. He requires ongoing rehabilitative
care which cannot be interrupted in order to go to Mexico
with his mother. In addition, Clara knows no one in America
that she trusts to care for her children who can keep them
safe from Joe if she must return to Mexico for an unknown
period of time to get her green card. Second, Clara is also
very afraid that Joe will follow her again to Mexico and
hurt or kill her there. He knows where her family lives, and
he knows that her restraining order will not protect her in
Mexico. He has vowed to kill Clara, and she believes that
since he is a U.S. citizen and can cross the border easily,
he will carry out his threat if she returns to Mexico. For
this reason, Clara must be able to get her green card while
she remains in the safety and protection of the United
case originated in Arkansas.
was born in Mexico. In her small town, she met a man named
Eugenio, who was a lawful permanent resident of the United
States and also a native of Mexico. The couple fell in love
and got married. Eugenio brought Soledad to the U.S., and
together they settled in Arkansas.
soon learned that the man she married was violent and
abusive. He beat her severely every week, giving her cuts,
bruises, and black eyes. The beatings were both frequent and
unpredictable. Soledad never knew what would provoke Eugenio
into his rages. She grew to fear him. She believed he might
kill her someday.
wanted Soledad to be completely dependent upon him. He
isolated her in the family home and did not permit her to
leave or try to make friends. Consequently, Soledad never
learned English, and she made no contacts with other
Americans. She was very fearful of reporting Eugenio's abuse
to the police, since she believed that this would result in
her immediate deportation. Eugenio constantly used Soledad's
undocumented status to control her, and he threatened to
report her to INS if she ever tried to leave him or seek
and Eugenio had three children. All three are now under the
age of nine. Soledad grew very concerned that Eugenio would
begin abusing the children just as he was abusing Soledad.
She feared for her children's safety and wanted to leave
Eugenio. Unfortunately, the circumstances under which she
finally left Eugenio are grim. The last beating she ever
endured from Eugenio left her hospitalized. Eugenio had
punched and kicked her all over her body, then he had taken
a knife and slit open both of her arms from her wrists to
her armpits. Soledad might have died of the wounds and
severe bleeding if she had not sought help in time.
Soledad was released from the hospital, she and her children
were taken by the police to a battered women's shelter.
Before living at the shelter, Soledad had no idea that such
resources were available to her. Soledad only knew that in
Mexico, neither law enforcement nor free shelter services
were available to assist battered women in escaping from the
abuse of their batterers. Soledad was thankful to have found
help for herself and her children in the United States.
is now in the process of applying for her green card under
VAWA. However, current law will be force her to return to
Mexico to get her green card. If she returns to Mexico, she
could be exposed to more abuse and danger. Eugenio makes
frequent trips to Soledad's hometown in Mexico, and he has
even threatened to hurt her and the children in Mexico if
she ever returns. Soledad fears that he will find her and
the children easily if she returns the Mexico to get her
green card. She needs the protection of U.S. laws and law
enforcement to keep her safe from Eugenio's attacks.
case originated in Louisiana.
met her husband Alvaro in Mexico in 1994. They dated and had
a son in early 1995. They both worked, and Alvaro's mother
provided child care for the baby. Alvaro then went to
Mississippi to work for six months, and became a lawful
permanent resident. During that time, he never called or
sent money for Juanita and the baby. However, by March of
1998 he returned to Juanita and pledged his love for her.
They were married the next month and moved to Louisiana in
June, to live with Alvaro's aunt and uncle.
abuse began as soon as they arrived in the United States.
Alvaro began isolating Juanita from her family and friends,
and he forbade her from learning English in order to keep
her dependent on him. Alvaro also began beating Juanita and
he frequently hit her in the face and head. Alvaro's aunt
and uncle did nothing to stop the abuse.
November of 1998, Juanita told Alvaro that she was suffering
from severe headaches for the past few months and asked to
be taken to the hospital. Her head had been hurting so badly
that she had lost feeling in her face for one month. Her
face and jaw were swollen on the right side, and she had
lost her voice for a couple of days. Even when she got her
voice back, the numbness continued. However, Alvaro refused
to acknowledge her pain or take her to the hospital. He grew
angry and beat her, and she ran to the neighbors for help,
asking them to call the police. Alvaro drove his car over to
the neighbors and tried to force Juanita into the car. He
threw her to the ground, hit her in the face and pulled her
hair. Then the police arrived, and Alvaro was arrested and
taken to jail.
was finally taken to the hospital, where doctors determined
that her ailments were caused by the severe trauma to the
head she sustained over months of beatings. She then entered
a shelter for safety. Juanita soon began to receive threats
from Alvaro's family in Mexico, stating that if she did not
drop the charges against him, they would see to it that she
was deported and that her child was permanently taken away
from her. This made Juanita afraid to file a protective
order against Alvaro. Eventually, however, she was granted
sole custody of her child, child support, and alimony.
Alvaro was granted visitation of the child on every other
Juanita is forced to return to Mexico to receive status as a
lawful permanent resident, she knows that Alvaro can follow
her there. Further, she will have to take her child with
her. She fears that Alvaro's family will harm her there and
try to take the child from her if she brings him with her.
She also has no one with whom she can leave him behind, and
if she did, she believes that Alvaro would try to claim
custody while she was away. Yet if she does bring the child
with her to Mexico, she will violate the terms of the court
order allowing Alvaro to see the child every other Saturday,
giving Alvaro cause to bring legal action against her.
Juanita must be able to receive her green card without
leaving the country in order to protect her rights and the
safety of her child.
case originated in Louisiana.
was born in Israel, and she lived with her parents in
Jerusalem until she was 22. One day while she was working in
the family garden, a man named Abdul noticed her from the
street. He immediately decided he wanted her for his wife,
and went to her mother to request permission to marry her.
Sharifa met Abdul, and she and her mother agreed to the
marriage. The couple was engaged for one year, during which
Sharifa remained in Jerusalem and Abdul returned to America
where he was a lawful permanent resident and owned a
business. Abdul often wrote letters to Sharifa, declaring
his love for her and describing all he wanted to do for her.
When the marriage became final, Sharifa came to America with
her husband. For a short time, things were as he had
promised they would be.
began coming home very late at night, each night later and
later. Sharifa would always wait for him, because he was all
she had in America. She spent hours in solitude; Abdul
forbade her to befriend American women because they were too
"loose" and Arabic women because they were too
"gossipy." When Abdul would finally arrive home at
night and Sharifa would ask him where he had been, he would
remind her of her subordinate position and tell her she had
no right to ask questions of him. Sharifa believed she had a
right to know, and when she would insist, Abdul would beat
her. The beatings soon became so commonplace that Abdul no
longer awaited provocation, he simply beat her whenever he
pleased. Frightened and isolated, Sharifa waited for her
husband to change and to give her the life he promised. He
June of 1997, Abdul shot Sharifa with his gun, causing a
serious wound to her arm. She begged him to bring her to the
hospital, but her refused until she promised to tell the
doctor that she had shot herself. After this incident, Abdul
tried to force Sharifa back to Jerusalem, but she did not
want to go. She would be ostracized there for causing her
marriage to fail, because her culture would never place the
responsibility for a failed marriage on the husband, however
abusive. In hopes of avoiding this shame, she remained in
America with Abdul and waited for him to change.
eventually stopped providing Sharifa with food, electricity,
and money for rent. Out of desperation, she reached out to
the Arabic women in her town, and found several good friends
who helped her find legal assistance and a battered women's
shelter. Her primary concern was the status of her residence
in America, because she refused to allow Abdul to force her
back to Jerusalem. Sharifa was able to file a self-petition
for legal residence, and is now anticipating receiving her
green card and obtaining a divorce. However, it is necessary
that Sharifa is able to receive here green card in the
United States. If she is forced to return to Jerusalem, she
fears Abdul will follow. There, his abuses will be
culturally accepted and legally difficult to obtain
protection against without suffering more harm from her
community. In Jerusalem, Sharifa's community will regard her
as the one who acted shamefully, and it is doubtful that
even her family will shelter her. Therefore, Sharifa must
not be forced to return to Israel, where she will be subject
to undue hardship and danger.
case originated in Louisiana.
is an East African woman who came to the United States in
1996 with her husband Raul. Raul is a lawful permanent
resident of the United States who is originally from the
same country as Wabei. The marriage was arranged by the
couple's parents, and Wabei and Raul barely knew each other
when they married. While in this country, Wabei endured
extreme ongoing emotional and physical abuse from Raul for
kept Wabei hostage in their home, refusing to let her work
or lead a normal life. He severely battered and tortured
her, beating her frequently. Raul even restricted her from
eating, allocating for her only one small meal per day.
Wabei sought refuge at a hospital, where she met another
person from her home country. With the confidence she gained
by having this new friend, Wabei left her husband for good.
She filed for and received a restraining order against Raul
based on the history of the domestic violence she has
experienced, and recently filed for a divorce.
has submitted a self-petition under VAWA and hopes to move
past the trauma of her abuse. However, she fears the
possibility of having to return to her home country in East
Africa for an indefinite period of time to obtain her green
card. In her home country, she would be branded as a social
outcast for having left her husband. Raul, who has
maintained contact with Wabei's family and friends in their
home country, has told them lies about Wabei and his
relationship with her. Her family and friends side with Raul
and feel Wabei has disgraced them; they want nothing more to
do with her.
fears that if she were to return home, Raul would follow her
there. She would have no protection against him, because the
laws of her country do not protect women against domestic
violence. Since she would be a social outcast, she would
have no one to aid or protect her during her stay. Wabei
should not have to face the danger of returning to a country
in which her husband can reassert absolute legal control
over her life and cause her further harm, unfettered by
legal restraints. Thus it is necessary that Wabei be
permitted to remain in safety in the United States, and not
be required to return to her home country for any reason.
case originated in Tennessee.
is originally from Mexico. In Mexico, she met and married
Ramón, a lawful permanent resident of the United States who
was also originally from Mexico. The couple settled in
Mexico and had a son, Paco. They were married and living in
Mexico for close to eight years before Ramón decided to
move Catalina and Paco to Tennessee.
both physically and mentally abused Catalina throughout
their marriage. He subjected her to regular beatings, during
which he would slap and punch her with his fists, throw
objects at her, and kick her. Ramón would fly into
uncontrollable fits of rage without any understandable
reason. Catalina feared him and obeyed his every
instruction. She believed him when he said that she was
"worthless" and that he really wanted to "get
rid of her." He was obsessive and jealous of her, and
he vowed to follow her if she ever decided to leave him.
living in the United States, Catalina and Ramón had four
more children, all U.S. citizens. Catalina constantly feared
for her and her children's safety around Ramón. His acts of
violence were never predictable, and Catalina often feared
that Ramón might kill her. One day, Ramón beat Catalina
severely about her face and body, shoved her and the five
children into the car, and drove to the next county. There,
he left the children and their bleeding and bruised mother
by the roadside. The police eventually found Catalina and
the children wandering along the highway, and they picked
them up and drove them to a shelter for battered women and
children. Ramón had abandoned his family and left them for
dead by the side of the road.
was so afraid that Ramón might find her and the children
again that she refused to get a restraining order against
him. She did not want him to have any idea of where she was,
and she feared that serving him with a restraining order
would fuel his anger and provoke him to look for her. She
has no doubt that one day he will find her and renew his
abuse of her.
the help of an attorney, Catalina is now in the process of
filing her VAWA self-petition. If she is made to return to
Mexico as the only way of getting her green card, she and
her children will face serious hardships. First, Catalina
fears that Ramón will find her easily in Mexico. He has
family in Mexico and travels there frequently. He would find
out if she ever came back to Mexico, and he would seek her
out at her parents' home, a place he knows well. Second,
Catalina lacks the resources to make the trip to Mexico with
her five children. She has recently moved out of the shelter
and is struggling to support the children entirely on her
own. Third, Catalina's five-year-old child, David, has a
serious heart condition which requires constant monitoring
here in the U.S. Since David is a U.S. citizen, he is
eligible for Medicare. He has already had an angioplasty
performed on his heart, and he will require valve surgery in
a few months. David cannot interrupt his treatment to travel
with his mother to Mexico to get her green card, and
Catalina has no friends or family in the U.S. with whom she
can leave David. Requiring Catalina to return to Mexico
would effectively jeopardize her child's health and put him
at risk of death. Further, Catalina, Paco, and the other
children cannot safely travel to Mexico for any period of
time as their safety from Ramon cannot be assured there.
case originated in New Hampshire.
is originally from Haiti. In her hometown in Haiti, she met
and fell in love with a U.S. citizen named Adam. Adam had a
great deal of money and influence in Haiti, especially in
Marie's town, and he had close ties to the police
department, as well. Not long after Marie and Adam were
married in Haiti, Adam started to treat Marie abusively.
was physically abusive to Marie on several occasions. He
would burn her with cigarettes, hit her, and throw objects
at her. Adam also had girlfriends with whom he had open
affairs. Once, when Adam discovered that Marie had been
asking questions about his girlfriends, Adam bribed the
Haitian police to arrest Marie in order to "teach her a
lesson" so that she would not ask any more questions.
Marie learned never to question Adam's authority.
brought Marie to the United States a little while after they
were married, promising that they would start over and build
a new life in a new country. Instead, things only got worse
for Marie. Adam isolated her completely, confining her to
their remote trailer park home. Because their home was too
far from the main town for Marie to access on foot, she
became completely dependent on Adam for food and money.
Marie tried to learn English by studying with a tutor, Adam
forbade her from continuing the lessons. Adam told her that
she should only speak Creole, and that she had no need for
learning English. Marie wanted to leave Adam, but she felt
trapped because of her lack of English skills. Also, she had
no idea that services were available for battered women.
Marie thought that she was destined to live confined in the
home, without friends or family, and be a slave to her
and Adam had two children after moving to the United States.
Both children are under the age of five and are U.S.
citizens. Marie cared for the children on her own, but she
was still dependent on Adam for food and clothing for the
children. Often, Adam would not give Marie enough money to
buy winter clothes for herself and the children, and Marie
would be forced to steal money from Adam. He continued to
physically abuse her in the United States, as well. He would
kick and hit Marie if she displeased him, and he would also
encourage the children to hit their mother and tell her to
"go back to Haiti."
eventually received help and information from a battered
women's service provider. She left Adam and received legal
assistance in obtaining a restraining order against Adam.
This made Adam very angry. Marie attempted to pursue
criminal charges against Adam for domestic assault and
battery, but Adam fled the country before the hearing. Since
then, Marie's family members in Haiti have informed her that
Adam has resettled in Marie's hometown. He has spread lies
to Marie's family, telling them that she is a terrible wife
and mother and that she has committed crimes in the U.S.
is anxiously awaiting the day that Marie will come back to
Haiti with the children. He may have his wish if Marie is
forced to return to Haiti as the only avenue to obtain her
green card under VAWA. If she does return to Haiti, Adam
will probably kill her. He has said in the past that he
"can't wait" for Marie to be deported so that he
can kill her for pressing criminal charges against him. Not
only does he currently reside in her small hometown in
Haiti, but also he is able to bribe and influence the police
in town so that they will not interfere if he abuses Marie.
Marie's restraining order will not protect her in Haiti.
is also afraid that returning to Haiti to get her green card
could cause her to lose her two children. Adam has
threatened to kidnap the children as soon as Marie brings
them to Haiti. Since Adam and the children are U.S.
citizens, Marie believes Adam will have no trouble
reentering the United States after kidnaping both of the
children. If this happens, Marie fears she will never see
her children again. Her and her children's lives will be in
constant jeopardy if she is forced to return to Haiti for
any period of time.
case originated in Wyoming.
is a citizen of Honduras. She came to the United States on a
visitor's visa to stay with her friend Nancy. While living
with Nancy, she met Nancy's brother, a United States citizen
named Roger. Roger would drop by his sister's house from
time to time, and during his visits, he and Esperanza would
chat and get to know one another. Soon Roger and Esperanza
began dating. They eventually fell in love and got married.
was not until after they married that Esperanza discovered
many disturbing things about Roger. She found out that he
was unemployed and a habitual drug user. The drug use upset
Esperanza and made her very fearful and uncomfortable. She
had never been exposed to drug abuse before, and she was
horrified to find drug paraphernalia all over the house.
began hitting Esperanza every day. He always found some
excuse or other to get angry at her and hit her or say
insulting, demeaning things to her. He also threatened to
have her deported if she ever sought help or tried to call
the police. She became so afraid of him that she could not
sleep at night. She would lie awake listening to him and his
friends partying and doing drugs until the early morning
refused to let her learn English, and he did not permit her
to make friends. He locked her inside the house all day
long, and he would not provide her with a telephone inside
the home. One evening, he arrived home drunk and began
hitting her. He then threw out her birth control pills and
raped her. Soon after that incident, Esperanza became
pregnant with Roger's child.
nearly killed Esperanza while she was pregnant. One day, he
left the house early to go to his sister's home. When he
returned, he was high on drugs and in a violent rage. He
pulled Esperanza to the couch by her hair and began punching
her in the face, bloodying her nose. Then he pushed her to
the ground and began strangling her, saying he was going to
kill her. Esperanza lost consciousness. When she woke up,
she found Roger brandishing a knife, saying he was going to
cut her "so no man would want her." He hit her
repeatedly in the back, causing her severe pain and
bruising. Then he passed out on the couch. Esperanza grabbed
her jacket and fled to a neighbor's house. She did not call
the police because she believed that Roger would find her
and kill her for doing so. Eventually, she returned home to
days later, Esperanza became very ill. She was two months
pregnant. She sensed that something was wrong with the baby,
so she went to the hospital. There, the doctors questioned
her about the bruises around her neck and all the cuts and
scratches on her face and body. She did not tell the doctors
she had been abused because she feared what Roger would do
to her in retaliation. After a thorough examination, the
doctors informed her that her baby was dead inside of her,
and that they would have to induce labor to take the baby
out. Esperanza was devastated. She knew that the beatings
and near strangulation that Roger had inflicted upon her had
caused the death of their baby.
very day that doctors induced labor and removed Esperanza's
dead fetus, Esperanza returned home to Roger. She told him
that he would have to change his ways, or she would leave
him. He told her "wherever you go, I will find you and
finally found the opportunity to leave Roger when Roger was
placed in jail for violating his probation. He had committed
several drug offenses, and now he had been caught with drugs
again. Esperanza went to a shelter and got a restraining
order against Roger. She also found an attorney to help her
petition for her green card through VAWA. Esperanza is
trying to build a life of her own away from Roger's abuse.
With the help of friends from her church, she has enrolled
herself in English classes and is now taking classes to earn
Esperanza is forced to return to Honduras as the only way of
getting her green card under VAWA, she will face several
hardships. To begin with, the recent hurricane that
devastated Honduras has left the entire country in disarray.
Esperanza lacks the money to make the trip to Honduras, and
she is afraid that she could be trapped there for a very
long period of time, waiting to get her green card. Several
services agencies, administrative and government offices,
and the police force have all been crippled by the
hurricane. Since Roger has vowed to hunt her down and kill
her when he gets out of jail, she believes it is likely he
will follow her to Honduras, where he knows she will be
unprotected. Esperanza believes that the laws of Honduras
will not protect her from Roger, and the police force will
not enforce her U.S. restraining order against him. In
addition, Esperanza cannot discontinue the psychological
counseling she is receiving in the U.S. to help her cope
with the abuse she endured. She needs ongoing treatment for
depression and insomnia--treatment only available to her in
case originated in Illinois and is now in Connecticut.
is 34 years old and is originally from Mexico. She met her
husband Aldo, a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., in
Mexico in February 1992. Aldo was living in Chicago and made
several trips to Mexico to see Angela. In December 1994,
Angela and Aldo were married in Mexico. After the wedding,
Aldo asked Angela to move to Chicago, and she soon followed
relationship progressed smoothly for about a year, but then
Angela began to experience changes in Aldo's behavior. Aldo
would not allow her to talk to anyone, including neighbors
and his own sisters. He would not give Angela money for
expenses, and over time, he began to ignore all other
responsibilities. He even refused to continue providing
January 1995, Angela found out that Aldo had a child by
another relationship. Based on a court order, Aldo had to
pay child support for this child. Angela was shocked at
Aldo's secrecy, and the relationship suffered under
financial strain. In September 1995, Angela and Aldo had a
daughter of their own.
resented Angela because she was not able to work. They had
bought a house and were deep in debt. Aldo would frequently
become drunk and verbally abuse Angela, accusing her of
being the reason for their debt. Following these episodes,
Aldo would often leave home, not returning for days. Angela
was left without money, food, or any means of support.
family in Mexico sent her a check for one hundred dollars.
Angela had no means by which to cash the check, not having
any identification papers. She gave the check to Aldo to
cash, but Angela never saw any of the money; Aldo took
began spending most of his days and evenings drinking with a
friend and a neighbor in the neighbor's garage. Any
questions by Angela were met with fury and verbal abuse.
Aldo told her he would do absolutely nothing to support her
and would not help her get a green card. Angela was
frightened of Aldo and the power he had over her immigration
status. Aldo soon disappeared again, leaving Angela to fend
for herself and their little girl.
August 1997, during another argument that took place in
their home, Aldo grabbed Angela and began to squeeze her
throat. He would have strangled her, had she not managed to
somehow break away from him. She called the police, who came
and arrested Aldo. The next day Angela was given a
restraining order. In order to protect herself and her
daughter, Angela decided to move to Connecticut, where her
Angela is forced to return to Mexico to obtain status as a
lawful permanent resident, she faces a dangerous situation.
Aldo is himself Mexican. He is very familiar with the
community Angela would have to return to as he has traveled
there many times in the past. Angela fears that Aldo could
follow her there and harm her, because her restraining order
would not be valid there. Mexican law will not protect
Angela against abuses by her husband. In order to protect
her safety, Angela must be allowed to remain in the United
States to achieve lawful permanent resident status.
case originated in Wisconsin.
is a 32-year-old woman from Mexico. In 1990, she came to the
United States and married Maurice, a lawful permanent
resident. The couple had two daughters, now seven years and
seven months old. In the eight years of their marriage,
Genoveva has been subject to physical abuse and violence
from her alcoholic husband.
Maurice is employed, most of his money goes to drinking and
gambling. There have been times when he has left on Thursday
night and not come home until Sunday night, leaving Genoveva
without money or food in the house for her and the children.
When she was pregnant with her second child, Maurice
disappeared, later calling her from Mexico saying he was
visiting his family. While he was gone, Genoveva was
hospitalized with a kidney infection, and had to leave her
daughter with a neighbor. Maurice's family who lived nearby
refused to take care of the child, for fear that Maurice
would become angry with them for meddling in his affairs.
has filed papers asking that INS grant Genoveva lawful
permanent residency. However, he threatens that he will
withdraw the papers if she does not obey him. Genoveva is
constantly subjected to Maurice's beatings and physically
violent behavior. She has never called the police, for fear
of retaliation by Maurice, for fear that he will withdraw
her papers, and because she does not want her daughter to
see her father being arrested. The beatings have been so
severe throughout their marriage that she has gone to the
hospital on several occasions with serious injuries.
However, Maurice always forces her to state that she fell,
and has avoided suspicion. Maurice also threatens Genoveva
with deportation, and dehumanizes and demeans her. As a
result of Maurice's abuses, Genoveva lives in a constant
state of terror. She has tried to leave, but has no money to
sustain herself since she cannot work. Lately, Genoveva has
become severely depressed over her situation, and has lost
all her hair as a result of her depression. She is now
seeing a therapist, but Maurice refuses to seek any help; he
claims Genoveva is the crazy one.
Maurice's drinking is worsening, and last year he was
prosecuted for driving drunk. He is most violent when he
drinks, and usually throws Genoveva and the children out of
the house. Genoveva is now trying to save enough money to
leave Maurice. She is self-petitioning for residency under
VAWA. Genoveva's family members in Milwaukee are afraid to
offer Genoveva their support because Maurice has threatened
to harm them. Returning to Mexico to obtain her green card
would be extremely dangerous for Genoveva. She could not
stay with her family members in Mexico who would not have
space or finances to support her and her children if she
were to travel to Mexico. She would therefore have to stay
at the house Maurice owns in Mexico. Maurice would surely
find her there and abuse her further, since the law will not
protect her in Mexico. Genoveva could not afford the expense
or the risk of taking her children into Mexico where Maurice
could kidnap them, nor is she able to leave them behind.
There is no one who could care for them and protect them. It
is therefore necessary that Genoveva is able to obtain
lawful immigration status while remaining in this country.
case originated in Texas and is currently in Wisconsin.
originally from Mexico, moved to Texas as a young girl. Her
mother died when she was four years old, leaving her and her
two brothers with an aunt in Texas. They never knew their
father. Rosita met and married Max, a lawful permanent
resident, in Texas when she was fifteen years old. Shortly
after Rosita and Max were married, they had a baby girl and
moved to Wisconsin to be with Max's family.
problems began as soon as the couple was married. Rosita
learned that Max was using and dealing drugs, along with his
brothers and uncles. He had many affairs during the
marriage, from which he contracted sexually transmitted
infections. He infected Rosita many times, and then blamed
her for it. Realizing the relationship was troubled, Rosita
did not want to have any more children after her first.
However, Max would not use protection and insisted on having
more children. He told her if she did not have them, he
would have them with other women. The couple eventually had
two more children.
continued to go out with other women, and these women would
often call Rosita at home and harass her with stories of
their love affairs with her husband. When Rosita would
complain, Max would beat her. One day, a young girl called
Rosita and told her to divorce Max, because she was having
his baby. When Rosita questioned Max about this, he was
drunk. He became very angry and threw bleach in Rosita's
eyes. She had to go to the hospital, and the police were
called there. However, Max told the police that Rosita was
the one who threw the bleach, showing them his
bleach-spattered shirt. Rosita did not say anything, and the
police did not arrest Max.
bought a house and a bar, but put them in his sister's name
so that Rosita would have no right to them if she ever dared
to divorce him. Max also makes all the family purchases to
prevent Rosita from having access any of the money. She is
not permitted to go anywhere without his permission, and if
she does, he beats her. On one occasion when he beat her,
her face was so disfigured that she took the children and
left in fear for their lives. However, she could not survive
on her own for long, and returned a few days later.
Max was arrested for drunken driving and was jailed for
three months. When he got out, he came home at 1:00 a.m.,
while Rosita was still at work. Because she did not know
when he was supposed to come home, she went out to eat with
a girlfriend from work and did not return home until 1:30
a.m. The young children were in the care of their uncle and
their older sister Regina. Max was enraged that Rosita was
not home for his return, and called the police, charging
Rosita with child neglect. She was not arrested, which only
further enraged Max.
lives in constant fear of Max's temper, and is very
concerned for the impact his violence is having on their
children. Rosita's oldest daughter Regina has suffered from
the effects of the abuse. Regina is very angry at her father
and has a lot of confused emotions about family. She was
just expelled from Catholic school for fighting, cursing,
and lying. She does not want to go back to school, but wants
to work instead so that she can afford to take her mother
and siblings away from Max's abuse. Rosita is devastated
that her children have been so adversely affected, and that
they feel responsible for protecting the family against Max.
She wants to change that, and is ready to leave Max and
provide for her children on her own.
in order to become a lawful permanent resident, Rosita will
be required to return to Mexico for consular processing.
This would pose severe hardship for her and her children.
Since Rosita first came to this country at the age of four,
she has no family or friends in Mexico. She cannot afford
the trip on her own and has no one to rely upon for
assistance once she reaches Mexico. Having to take the
children would be an additional expense, but she would not
dream of leaving them behind. Max could claim that she has
abandoned them and have her parental rights revoked.
Furthermore, Max could follow Rosita to Mexico, where he
could take his revenge upon her for leaving him without
facing legal consequences. For these reasons, it is
important that Rosita be permitted to remain in the United
States to obtain her green card, and not be forced to risk
her safety and rights by returning to Mexico.
case originated in Wisconsin.
came to the United States from Venezuela to visit friends
and family. While at a baseball game, she met James, an
American citizen. Even though there was a language barrier,
the two became friends and fell in love. Atalanta thought
James was a very nice person, and the couple enjoyed going
out with friends together. However, before long Atalanta's
visa expired and she had to return to Venezuela to her
5-year-old son and her parents who were caring for him.
James said he loved her and did not want her to leave, and
said he would marry her so she would stay. Atalanta agreed,
and sent for her son after the marriage. She was happy to
get him out of Venezuela, where her son's father was using
and dealing drugs.
made Atalanta sign a prenuptial agreement so that she would
not be entitled to any of his belongings or assets. A few
months after the wedding, she noticed James began to become
even more possessive. He would make Atalanta buy her own
groceries for her and her son, not allowing her to touch any
of the food he bought himself. James started to drink more
and more, and soon became violent. He beat Atalanta on
several different occasions. He also abused Atalanta
sexually and routinely forced sex upon her. Atalanta did not
call the police because she was afraid James would have her
and her son deported back to Venezuela.
all this abuse was going on, James's ex-wife decided to sign
custody of their two daughters over to James. For a while,
James was nicer to Atalanta so that she would care for his
older daughters. By this time, Atalanta had become depressed
and was seeking mental health therapy. She thought about
divorcing James, but he convinced her not to, bullying her
about her immigration status.
Atalanta found marijuana in James's dresser and questioned
him about it. He had been drinking, and verbally attacked
her for questioning him. His anger made Atalanta nervous,
and she retreated to the basement to smoke a cigarette.
James followed her, and accused her of trying to burn the
house down. He then pulled her by the hair and threw her
outside in the cold without shoes or a coat. As he was
pushing her out, she hit him in self defense. James then
called the police and claimed Atalanta abused him, but the
police could see that James was drunk and did not arrest
this incident, Atalanta filed for and received a protection
order against James, feeling her life was in danger.
Atalanta is self-petitioning for residency under VAWA and
will be pursuing a divorce. However, if she is forced to
return to Venezuela for consular processing, she could again
be in danger. Her restraining order against James would not
be valid in Venezuela. This would give him incentive to
follow her and take his revenge upon her there, where he
could escape legal consequences. Atalanta has no support
system in Venezuela as her family sides with him. Further,
her ex-husband, who has been involved in criminal activity
and drug dealing in Venezuela is angry about her bringing
their son to the United States. She fears that returning to
Venezuela with her oldest son would be dangerous. However,
he must be able to travel with her to be able to obtain her
green card based on Atalanta's VAWA petition. For these
reasons, it is important that Atalanta and her son be
allowed to remain within this country to obtain lawful
case originated in Wisconsin.
is a 26-year-old woman from Mexico. She moved to Wisconsin
with her family when she was seventeen and began attending
college. At college, she dated Julio, a Nicaraguan student,
and became pregnant at age 19. However, Julio broke up with
her when he found out she was pregnant, and took no interest
in seeing the baby.
later met another man at work, an American citizen named
Matthew. Matthew seemed kind and treated Bonita nicely, and
she married him when she was 23. When they were first
married, they lived with Bonita's parents, but soon they
moved to a dairy farm in Nebraska. There, Matthew became a
different man. He often came home angry, hitting furniture
and slamming doors, yelling at Bonita that it was her fault
things were not working out for him. The physical abuse soon
started, and Matthew would frequently pull Bonita's hair,
hit her in the face with the palm of his hand, shake her,
hit her arms with his fists, and push her into walls.
also abused Bonita in other ways. He kept her isolated from
family, friends, and community, and refused to give her any
money for expenses. He also forced her to have sex with him
against her will. After about two months, Matthew went to
Texas to live with his mother. There, he was arrested on an
old warrant for abusing his first wife and was sent to jail
for two weeks. During this time, Bonita was deported to
Mexico. When Matthew got out of jail, he found Bonita in
Mexico and convinced her to return to Texas with him.
the couple moved into Matthew's mother's house, the abuse
continued. Matthew was unemployed and sat around the house
all day drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. He was angry
all the time, and took his anger out on Bonita. He used to
wake her in the middle of the night just so he could beat
her. He waited until no one was around to hear the abuse.
Bonita became pregnant, but suffered a miscarriage because
of the beatings. Eventually, her mother brought her back to
Wisconsin, away from Matthew.
wishes to remain in the United States, where her family and
friends live and are available as a support system. If she
is forced to return to Mexico to obtain her green card, she
will face danger and will not be protected by the law.
Matthew could easily again follow her to Mexico, where he
could abuse her without fear of being prosecuted. Bonita
does not have any family or friends in Mexico, and will have
no means of financial or emotional support while she is
there waiting for her green card to be processed based on
her VAWA self-petition. There is no indication of how long
she would be forced to remain in Mexico for consular
processing. For these reasons, Bonita must be allowed to
adjust her immigration status in the United States, where
she will be protected by the law and supported by her
case originated in Ohio.
is a 52-year-old woman from Hungary. Three years ago, she
traveled to the United States to work as a nanny for an
Hungarian family in Ohio. She taught the children Hungarian,
and took them on outings to the park. One day in the park,
Elsa met Patrick, an American citizen. The two began to see
each other often, and before long they decided to marry and
Elsa left her job.
their marriage, Patrick's behavior completely changed, and
he began to abuse Elsa emotionally, verbally, and
physically. He frequently threatened to kill her and
constantly called her obscene names. Knowing Elsa was
especially fearful of fire, Patrick would threaten to set
the apartment on fire after he left. He would often scream,
"I'll spend the rest of my life in jail to see you
was terrified of Patrick, but did not know how to seek help.
She was not familiar with the English language or her
surroundings and felt completely isolated. The only place
Elsa was allowed to go was the grocery store, and even then
she had to be accompanied by Patrick. On these occasions, he
would accuse her of looking at other people and planning to
leave him. He would then hit her in the car on the way home.
several occasions, Patrick beat Elsa so severely that she
called the police, but this only made Patrick more angry.
Elsa knew if she stayed with Patrick any longer, he would
eventually maim or kill her. She sought refuge in shelters,
frequently changing her location so Patrick could not find
has now become an independent, self-sufficient member of the
community, having learned English and found employment,
housing, and a supportive network of friends. She is proud
of her accomplishments here, and knows such success would
not be possible for her in Hungary. Her VAWA self-petition
was approved and she would like to file for her lawful
permanent residency as soon as possible. But returning to
Hungary to do so would present an extreme hardship. Elsa
would lose her job, as she would have to be out of the
country for an indeterminate period of time. She would not
be able to afford the trip even with the salary she makes
now; without it, she would lose everything. Elsa has two
grown children in Hungary, but the economic conditions there
are so unfavorable that they cannot find work or support
themselves. They are not in a position to help Elsa if she
were forced to return to Hungary, and Elsa has no other
family there to provide lodging or financial support.
Finally, Patrick would be free to follow Elsa to Hungary,
where the law would not protect her against his abuses.
Forcing Elsa to return to Hungary to obtain her green card
poses an increased risk to her safety and robs her of our
legal system's ability to protect her. For these reasons, it
is necessary for Elsa to obtain her green card without being
forced to leave the United States and face the hardship of
returning to Hungary.
case originated in Ohio.
is originally from Thailand. She married Eddie, a United
States citizen, after he dated and courted her. She believed
Eddie loved her, and she placed a high value on having a
family. She never imagined that Eddie would abuse her.
after their marriage, Eddie began controlling Lee's
behavior. He refused to let her leave the house, and he
would not cooperate in petitioning for her legal residency.
He began to insult her and treat her like a servant, forcing
her to follow his orders at all times. Eddie would get
extremely angry and fly into destructive rages in which he
would throw objects, break Lee's personal possessions, and
ruin furniture. His violence escalated soon after their son,
Brian, was born. He would slap Lee when he would get angry,
and he would also slap little Brian, as well.
marriage to Eddie was marked with significant sexual abuse.
Eddie forced sexual intercourse on Lee while she was asleep.
He also raped her many times while he was an angry rage. On
one occasion, when Lee fled to her father-in-law's house
after Eddie beat her in the face, Eddie's own father tried
to force her to have sex with him. When she refused him, he
ordered her and Brian to get in his car, and he drove them
to Eddie's house and charged Lee $40 for the ride. When Lee
told Eddie that his father had tried to force himself on
her, Eddie shrugged and told her that she must have done
something to provoke his father.
began telling Lee that she was crazy and that she needed to
go to a mental hospital because she was making him abuse
her. Lee's self-esteem plummeted, and she began blaming
herself for the abuse she was suffering. She was afraid to
tell anyone about the abuse because whenever she called the
police or tried to get help, Eddie would punish her by
turning off the electricity in their home for days, cutting
off Lee's ability to cook or obtain heat or air
most severe incident of abuse occurred just before Lee
separated from Eddie. Eddie had just come home from work,
and he appeared to be angry about something. When Lee asked
what was the matter, Eddie grabbed her by the neck and
choked her, telling her he wanted her to die. After she
collapsed to the ground from lack of oxygen, he stomped on
her stomach and watched her writhe in agony. When Eddie left
the house later that night, Lee and her son fled to a
battered women's shelter. Lee has since received
psychological counseling services and has been assisted in
applying for a visa through VAWA.
Lee to return to Thailand to obtain her green card would be
emotionally and financially devastating to her. She lacks
financial resources to make the trip to Thailand, since she
is currently living in a shelter with her son and is looking
for work. She has no family in the United States with whom
to leave her U.S. citizen son, who is now two years old, so
she would have to take him with her to Thailand. Doing this
would be both financially impossible and emotionally painful
for Lee. She has not kept her family in Thailand informed as
to the abuse she suffered with Eddie, and she knows that her
family would view her separation from her husband as a
humiliating disgrace and fears their treatment and rejection
of her. Lee strongly believes that once her family finds out
she has left her husband, they will refuse to shelter and
support her and her son in Thailand.
second factor preventing Lee's departure to Thailand is her
need to continue psychotherapy in the U.S. Lee's therapist
has informed her attorney that she is suffering from
post-traumatic stress disorder. Lee has recurrent nightmares
about the abuse she suffered at Eddie's hands. She also
becomes paralyzed during the day with frightening
"flashback" memories of her husband beating her.
Lee requires psychotherapy to treat this disorder, as well
as her feelings of worthlessness and lack of self-esteem. If
she were to leave the country and discontinue her therapy,
her condition would worsen, and all the progress she has
made would be reversed. Lee needs to obtain her green card
in the U.S. so that she may continue her therapy and seek
permanent housing and employment to support her son.
case originated in Alabama.
is a citizen of Panama. She met and married her United
States citizen husband, Andrew, when he was stationed in
Panama with the U.S. military. After the couple married,
they moved to the United States. Andrew always promised
Carmen that he would apply for her residency, but he never
and Andrew settled in Alabama. Andrew kept Carmen completely
isolated from others. She was not allowed to socialize with
anyone, make friends, speak to anyone on the telephone, or
leave the house on her own. She was completely dependent
upon Andrew for money, food, and clothes. She felt helpless,
like a prisoner in her own home.
time went on, Andrew's behavior grew more abusive and
controlling. He would get very jealous and possessive of
Carmen. He would even instruct her on how to do her makeup
and would select her clothes in the morning so that her
appearance would be to his liking. When Carmen gave birth to
their child shortly after their marriage, Carmen became even
more dependent on Andrew for support. She had absolutely no
family or friends to rely on in the United States, but she
attempted to leave Andrew more than once and seek refuge in
time that Carmen would leave Andrew, he would threaten to
report her to INS and have her deported. He also threatened
that if she were deported, she would not be able to take
their child back to Panama with her. He told her he would
petition for custody of the child and have his family raise
him here in the U.S. These threats frightened Carmen enough
to return to Andrew and leave the shelter. Andrew refused to
provide money or clothing for the baby unless Carmen
returned to live with him as his wife. Carmen only recently
separated from Andrew and sought the counsel of an attorney.
Carmen is forced to return to Panama to get her green card
under VAWA, she will face losing her only child in a custody
battle. Andrew has petitioned for sole custody, and Carmen
has temporary custody of the child until the matter is
adjudicated. Andrew would like nothing more than to see
Carmen deported. Failing that, he would certainly take
advantage of her situation if she had to go to Panama for a
potentially long period of time to get her green card. She
cannot travel to Panama with her child while the child's
custody is in dispute. She is afraid to leave the child with
her abuser, Andrew, or with any of his family. Furthermore,
she is convinced that if she leaves the U.S. for any period
of time, no matter how brief, Andrew will petition the court
for custody of their child on the grounds that Carmen
abandoned the child. For these reasons, Carmen cannot go
back to Panama for even the shortest amount of time to get
her green card.
story originated in Georgia.
and Omar met and married in Egypt, their native country.
Their marriage was arranged by their parents. Omar is a
lawful permanent resident of the United States, and returned
to live there after the marriage. Anou followed him soon
after, and Omar promised her parents he would apply for her
they began living together, Omar treated Anou poorly. He
started to delay the immigration paperwork process, and
shouted at Anou if she brought it up. He ordered her around
and demeaned and insulted her. Anou quietly obeyed Omar out
of fear, but she was dissatisfied. She asked him why he
treated her this way, and wondered what made him change.
This only enraged Omar, and his verbal abuse escalated. He
told Anou that he was sorry he had to marry her, because she
was a bad wife. He then began going out more often, staying
out late and locking Anou in the house, leaving her without
any way to exit the house for full days at a time.
was terrified to be alone in a strange country where she
knew no one, and devastated that her new husband had
rejected her. Omar's cruelty was unbearable for her,
especially since she was not allowed to leave the house and
had nothing else in her life. His treatment of Anou
worsened, and before long he began to threaten her with the
ultimate punishment. Omar knew that if he sent Anou back to
Egypt, her uncle would kill her for dishonoring her family.
Traditional Egyptian cultural practices dictate that when a
husband is dissatisfied with his wife, she shames her family
and has failed her purpose in life. Egyptian women are
usually killed for this.
begged Omar not to send her to her death, but he said he did
not care about her or what happened to her. He told her she
deserved to die, and arranged for her to travel to Egypt the
following day. He then locked her in the house and left.
Anou was so frightened that she fainted. When she regained
consciousness, she realized she had to escape. The only open
exit was the second floor balcony, and she decided to leave
behind her belongings and climb down. Reaching the ground,
she began to fear that Omar would come after her in his car,
and she started to run. She ran for two hours, until she
reached a police officer in the street. Although she did not
speak English well, she communicated her danger, and he
brought her to a shelter.
then contacted her mother in Egypt, who warned her never to
return to Egypt. Her mother told her that her uncle was sure
to kill her and that she could not protect Anou if she
returned. Anou resolved to remain in the United States and
succeed on her own, away from Omar's abuse. She has
self-petitioned for residency, but cannot return to Egypt to
obtain her green card. Her uncle and father are still
determined to end her life for the dishonor she has brought
them, and would surely find her as soon as she entered the
country. It is therefore imperative that Anou be allowed to
obtain lawful immigration status within the United States,
where she is independent and safe.
case originated in Hawaii.
came originally from Micronesia to Hawaii. There she met
Mark, an American citizen, and the two began dating. Before
long, Lea realized she was pregnant, and she and Mark got
relationship was strong until their daughter Haley was born.
Around this time, Mark began drinking excessively and
frequently became angry when intoxicated. He took his anger
out on Lea, first mentally abusing her with harsh language
and frightening threats. He often told her he would have her
deported if she did not obey him. This lead to physical
abuse, which took the form of severe beatings. After these
beatings, Lea fled with Haley to friends' houses, but always
returned to Mark out of fear and desperation.
one particularly brutal beating, Lea began to fear for her
life and for Haley's safety and well-being, and entered a
shelter. She obtained a restraining order against Mark, and
she and Haley hid from him in the shelter. After that she
moved in with friends, but had neither money nor a valid
work permit. Mark continued to threaten her, saying he would
take Haley and never let Lea see her again.
is working to become an independent provider for herself and
her American citizen child here in the United States. She is
filing a self-petition so that she can become a lawful
permanent resident and can work to support herself and her
child. But she fears having to return to Micronesia to
obtain her green card. Currently, Lea has gone into hiding
and Mark is being kept at bay by the restraining order filed
against him. Friends, however, have informed her that Mark
is trying to find her. If Lea leaves the country, he will be
able to find out she has left and he will soon follow. Lea's
protective order would not be valid in Micronesia, and Mark
has told friends that if she went there he would find her.
Additionally, because she is not working, Lea cannot afford
a trip to Micronesia. Because of Mark's threats, it would
not be safe to take Haley with her or to leave her behind.
Therefore, it is necessary for Lea to obtain her green card
in the United States where she can remain protected by the
case originated in Hawaii.
a Mexican native, traveled to Hawaii where she met Frank, a
United States citizen. They fell in love and got married,
and were together for three years. During that time, Vanessa
endured many forms of abuse from Frank, and lived in
they were married, Frank kept postponing filing an
immigration petition for Vanessa. If she would mention it,
he would become angry and hostile, threatening her with
deportation. Vanessa worked part time for cash, but Frank
took away all the money she earned. She had no money of her
own, and relied on Frank to purchase everything they needed.
He even picked out and purchased her clothes, although he
only rarely bought anything for her. After a while, Frank's
controlling behavior escalated into mental and physical
abuse. He demeaned and threatened Vanessa, and frequently
Vanessa reached a point where she could stand no more abuse,
and sought refuge in a shelter. She obtained a protective
order against Frank and was safe for a time. However, she
felt helpless without Frank and returned to him on two
occasions. Shortly after both reunions, she returned to the
shelter because of Frank's continued severe beatings.
has filed a self-petition and wishes to remain in the United
States where she can be protected from Frank's continued
abuse. However, she is terrified of being forced to return
to Mexico to obtain lawful immigration status. Vanessa
currently feels safe because her protective order is
succeeding in keeping Frank away from her. Yet her
protective order will not be enforced in Mexico, and Frank
could follow her there where he can abuse her without legal
consequences. It is therefore necessary for Vanessa to
receive her green card while safely remaining within the
boundaries of the United States.
National Network on Behalf of Battered Immigrant Women is
co-chaired by NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, The
Family Violence Prevention Fund, and the National
Immigration Project of the National Lawyer's Guild.
Vicitmization in the United States: 1990-1997 Trends. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S.
Department of Justice, December 1997, pp.57-58.
A. Davidson. The Impact of Domestic Violence on
Children; A Report to the President of the American Bar
Association. ABA. 1 (1994).
Ted Miller et al. National Institute of Justice. US Dept of
Justice. Victim Costs and Consequences: A New Look.
18-19 (1996) ( Finding that domestic violence costs $67
billion a year in property damage, medical costs, mental
health care, police and fire services, victim services, and
lost worker productivity).
M. Zlotnik. Empowering the Battered Woman: The Use of
Criminal Contempt Sanctions to Enforce Civil Protection
Orders. 56 Ohio St.L.J. 1153, 1162-63, 1215 (1995).
R. (1995 May/June), Evaluation of the MCN Domestic Violence
Assessment Form and Pilot Prevalence Study. The Clinical
Supplement of the Migrant Clinicians Network, 1-2.
Ann Dutton, Leslye E. Orloff, and Giselle Aguilar Hass,
Characteristics of Help-Seeking Behaviors, Resources and
Service Needs of Battered Immigrant Latinas: Lega l and
Policy Implications. Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law &
Policy, Volume VII, Number 2, Summer 2000. Page
for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and Service(CIRRS). (1990).
A needs assessment of undocumented women. Author;
San Francisco. and Mary an Dutton, et. al. Characteristics
of Help-Seeking Behaviors, Resources and Service Needs of
Battered Immigrant Latinas: Legal and Policy Implications.
Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy, Volume VII,
Number 2, 13 (Summer 2000).
Ann Dutton, et. al., Characteristics of Help-Seeking
Behaviors, Resources and Service Needs of Battered Immigrant
Latinas: Lega l and Policy Implications. Georgetown Journal
on Poverty Law & Policy, Volume VII, Number 2, 38
(Summer 2000). Language barriers (29.7%), lack of knowldege
about formal services available to help battered immigrants
(23%) and fear, particularly immigrant consequences (27%)
appear to pose significant barriers to battered immigrant
Latinas' access to institutionally based legal, social and
Id. at 36
11. See Power and Control Wheel Produced by the
Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, Duluth, MN.
Mary Ann Dutton, et. al. Characteristics of Help-Seeking
Behaviors, Resources and Service Needs of Battered Immigrant
Latinas: Lega l and Policy Implications. Georgetown Journal
on Poverty Law & Policy, Volume VII, Number 2, 6-7(
Report No. 395, 103rd Cong., 1st Sess.
Mary Ann Dutton, et. al., Characteristics of Help-Seeking
Behaviors, Resources and Service Need of Battered Immigrant
Latina=s: Legal and Policy Implications at 15.
Report No. 395, 103rd Cong., 1st Sess.
18. Id. at 37.
at 38 (discussed in the context of child abuse).
21. Id. at 25, 27.
Immigration and Naturalization Service, November 1999.
23. See Hughes, HM et al (1989). Witnessing spouse abuse and
experiencing physical abuse: A >double whammy=, Journal
of Family Violence, 4, 197-209.
Miles Foundation, ADomestic Violence
in the Military Facts and Statistics@
(visited June 7,2000) <http://pages.cthome.net/milesfdn>.
25. Immigration and Naturalization Service, International
Matchmaking Organizations: A Report to Congress,@ March 4,
1999, 5 <http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/aboutins/repstudies/Mobrept.htm>.
Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, Pub. L. No.
103-322, 108 Stat. 1796, 1953-1955 (1994) (codified at 8
U.S.C.A. §1554). For overviews of the VAWA provisions
affecting battered immigrants, see Linda Kelly, Domestic
Violence Survivors: Surviving the Beatings of 1996, 11
Geo. Immigr. L.J. 303, 313-314 (1997) (detailing the
Congressional rationale for adopting VAWA); Note, Trapped
in Domestic Violence: The Impact of United States
Immigration Laws on Battered Immigrant Women, 6
B.U. Pub. Int. L.J. 589, 600-603 (1997) (noting that VAWA
became effective in 1995, but the INS did not issue interim
regulations for the implementation of VAWA until March 26,
1996); and Linda Kelly, Stories from the Front: Seeking
Refuge for Battered Immigrants in the Violence Against Women
Act, 92 Nw. U.L. Rev. 665, 671-688 (1998) (outlining
VAWA's evidentiary requirements).
Congress set the fine at $1000 in 1996; before then, the
amount of the fine had fluctuated. H.R. Conf. Rep, 104-863,
104th Cong. §376 (1996).
Revenues were used, in large part, to fund detention centers
for illegal and criminal aliens. S.Rep. 105-48, 105th Cong.
Gabrielle M. Buckley, International Legal Developments in
Review: 1997, 32 INTLLAW 471, 474 (1998).
H.R. Rep. 105-845, 105th Cong. (1998).
Except that immigrants who entered lawfully and were spouses
or children of US citizens who violated the terms on their
visas may continue to adjust their status within the United
Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary,
and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 1998, Pub. L. No.
105-119, H.R. 2267 (1997).
INA §204(a)(1)(A)(iii)(II); INA §204(a)(1)(A)(iv)(II); INA
§204(a)(1)(B)(ii); and INA §204(a)(1)(B)(iii)(II).
Leslye E. Orloff, Deeana Jang & Catherine F. Klein, With
No Place to Turn: Improving Legal Advocacy for Battered
Immigrant Women, 29 Fam. L.Q. 313, 327 (1995).
Kelly, supra note 1, 92 Nw. U.L. Rev. at 686.
Id. at 677 (explaining that battered women must often
struggle to obtain custody of their children because of the
perception that they are "weak" and thus unable to
care for their children).
See Shawn Foster, Law's Demise Puts Immigrant
Wives at Risk, SLTR, January 25, 1999, at B1.
Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, supra
note 1 at Sec. 40221.
Kelly, supra note 1, 11 Geo. Immigr. L.J. at 303, citing
Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act,
Pub. L. No. 104-208, 110 Stat. 3009 (1996).
In some countries, shelters and services for survivors of
domestic violence may not exist. In other countries, laws
against domestic violence may be greatly underenforced,
either because the laws have only recently been passed or
because law enforcement fails to respond to domestic
violence reports. See Kelly, supra note 1, 92
Nw. U.L. Rev. at 681-682. See also Uma Narayan, "Male-order"
Brides: Immigrant Women, Domestic Violence and Immigration
Law, 10 HYPA 104 (1995), where the author describes the
ostracism of Indian women who return home after having left
their abusive husbands.
Id., citing Nilda Rimonte, A Question of
Culture: Cultural Approval of Violence Against Women in the
Pacific-Asian Community and the Cultural Defense, 43
Stan. L.R. 1311 (1991), and giving the example of Asian
women at a Los Angeles battered women's shelter who
refrained from reporting domestic violence due to a need to
"preserve the family honor."
Michelle J. Anderson, A License to Abuse: The Impact of
Conditional Status on Female Immigrants, 102 Yale L.J.
1401, 1420-21 (1993).
Deborah Weissman, Protecting the Battered Immigrant Woman,
68-OCT Fla. B.J. 81, 82 (1994).
See Catherine F. Klein and Leslye E. Orloff, Providing
Legal Protection for Battered Women: An Analysis of State
Statutes and Case Law, 21 Hofstra L. Rev. 801, 1020
(1993), noting that the effective provision of legal
assistance and services to battered immigrant women requires
that advocates, attorneys, police, and courts receive
training and education on domestic violence issues.
Kelly, supra note 1, 92 Nw. U.L. Rev. at 675.
Pena v. Kissinger,
409 F.Supp. 1182 (S.D.N.Y. 1976).