25 March 2007

Question of the week: I entered two years ago on a visitor visa and overstayed. Then two months ago I married a United States citizen. However, since then, every time we argue, he threatens to have me deported, and twice he hit me. I am afraid of him, but am also afraid that if I leave him, I will be deported. Is there anything I can do??
Yes. Surprisingly, your situation is so common that a law was passed called the Violence Against Woman’s Act, ?VAWA?, for short. Under VAWA, anyone who enters into a good faith marriage with a U.S. Citizen, ?USC?, or Lawful Permanent Resident, ?LPR?, and is then battered, abused and/or subjected to extreme cruelty by the USC or LPR spouse, may petition for a ?green card? without the abusive spouse even knowing. Also, the victim’s children may be included in the process as well.

If you find your self in such a situation, the following advice may be helpful:

1.Fist get somewhere safe. Keep in mind that your immediate safety, and the safety of your children is far more important than you immigration status. If you feel it is to dangerous to stay where you are, get out. The county in which you live, the police, and your lawyer will be able to advise you on getting into temporary housing.

2.Take control. because it is still necessary to document that the marriage is ?bona fide?, or real, while you are together try to compile as many documents as you can, which tend to prove that the marriage is real, and that or she is a LPR, ?LPR?, or USC. Such documents may include his or her birth certificate, US passport, ?green card?, joint leases, joint credit card statements, joint health, car, and life insurance statements, joint tax returns, photographs of your time together, and the like. Also, maintain control of the documents, by storing them in another place, or in your lawyer’s file. Many times we have seen such situations in which the abusive spouse, often in a rage, takes and gets rid of all the supporting documents before the victim can file.

3.Know you rights, and do not be afraid to exercise them. In the United States, except in the case of self defense, there is no legal justification for hitting and/or threatening your spouse. And, believe me when I say, when it happens once, no matter how apologetic the abusive spouse may later be, it will happen again, usually with increasing severity. Because your first concern must be your safety and the safety of your children, if you have any, call the police. They will come to the home, remove the abusive spouse, and issue an order of protection, ?TRO?, under which the abuser may not approach you, in person, by telephone, or in any way. If you are afraid for the well-being of your children, tell the police that, and ask them to include the children in the TRO. In ten days a judge will decide to make it permanent or not. Keep in mind that the TRO is only as strong as you make it. In other words, if the abusive spouse violates the TRO, either by telephone or writing or in person, no matter how insignificant the violation seems to be, call the police. If you do not, the police cannot protect you. Remember too that all the records from the TRO and subsequent reports will be used to establish the abuse with the Immigration Service.

4. Document the abuse. If there has been physical abuse, go to the hospital, get checked out and treated if necessary, and keep all the records. If you have been bruised and/or cut, point it out to the police, and if possible, take photos of the injuries. Also, write down when and where each instance of abuse happened.

5. Finally, do not be confused by the name ?Violence Against Woman’s Act?. Believe it or not, on a number of occasions, we have successfully prosecuted VAWA applications for men who have been abused by their USC or LPR wives.

Joseph G. Cella, is a licensed attorney with
Cella & Associates, LLC. With offices in Clifton
and Cliffside Park, NJ, and offering evening and Saturday
appointments, Cella & Associates practices
exclusively in U.S. Immigration Law, and
Removal/Deportation Defense.
201.613.6142 www.cellalaw.com

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