Undocumented Victims of Domestic Abuse Have Options

By January 20, 2011Divorce

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Divorce on Thursday, January 20, 2011

In the last post, we discussed how a lack of understanding of the legal system often allows the abuser in a violent relationship to leverage the lack of knowledge to threaten a victim into staying when all they want is a divorce. Although the situation seems desperate to many undocumented aliens when their citizen partner threatens deportation and the loss of their children, there is help out there.

Attorneys and advocates across the nation are giving more attention to the problem and trying to spread the word that although these women are in the country illegally, they have options. Shelters exist around the country that provide victims with the resources that they need to leave an abusive partner and the federal Violence Against Women Act, passed in 1994, provides a process to help them avoid the legal consequences that they fear.

The Violence Against Women Act provides qualifying, undocumented women with a temporary visa that allows them to reside in the United States and obtain work while the go through a divorce or child custody case. The act helps break the power hold that an abuser has over the victim in the domestic violence situations.

In order to qualify, the victim must be an undocumented alien married to a United States citizen. The victim must also fully cooperate with law enforcement officials during a criminal investigation into the abuse. The 6,374 women who qualified for the program in 2009 shows the commitment to help the victims as well as a hope that others will come forward.

Although the temporary visa mentioned above requires that the spouse is a citizen, victims of domestic violence in a relationship where both parties are undocumented or the victim is not married to their abuser may obtain what is called a U-visa that provides similar relief.

Source: ABC15.com “Undocumented domestic abuse victims face hurdles” Rebekah Zemansky 1/3/11