Maria Learns About the Violence Against Woman Act
When Maria*, an immigrant, started dating Connor*, a U. S. citizen, everything seemed fine. However, after they got married, Connor started getting violently abusive with her. Throughout their marriage, Maria endured physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her husband.
During one of the last episodes of abuse, Maria bit her abuser’s arm to break free from him because he was choking her by wrapping his arm around her neck. Maria called the police for help, but Connor told them that she had bit him after he tried to take away a knife she supposedly had. Maria was charged with and arrested for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
After leaving her husband, Georgina, who was still undocumented, came to Legal Aid Service of Broward County looking for free civil legal assistance as a survivor of domestic violence. During the consultation, Legal Aid determined that she qualified for immigration benefits under the Violence Against Woman Act (“VAWA”). Legal Aid attorneys proceeded to submit a petition on her behalf, as well as an application for her to become a Lawful Permanent Resident. Maria had lived in the United States for over 15 years. Before the arrest, she had no criminal record; not even a traffic ticket.
Following an investigation, the prosecutors declined to pursue the criminal case where her husband accused her of threatening him with a knife. While Maria’s VAWA petition was approved without issues, her application for a green card was flagged because of her arrest. Even though the case had been dismissed and there was no conviction, an immigration officer has the discretion to grant or deny applications. An arrest for aggravated battery was highly detrimental to Maria’s case.
Why It Matters
Legal Aid carefully prepared the case, pointing out to the interviewing officer that the arrest was connected to the abuse, and that the report was inaccurate, one-sided, and should be considered hearsay. The officer ultimately agreed, informed Maria that he was going to approve the application, and welcomed her to the United States as a lawful permanent resident.
Having access to free quality civil legal assistance, changed Maria’s life for the better. For more information about Legal Aid Service of Broward County, or to donate, please visit: www.browardlegalaid.org
*Names and images have been changed to protect the privacy of our clients
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