The Violence against Women Act (VAWA)

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Lawyers Morristown NJ

Women who do not have legal status in the United States traditionally have suffered from domestic violence in a way that is different than women with legal status within the country. Many immigrants are often fearful of admitting that they have been a victim of a crime in part because they believe they will be removed (deported) if they report the crime.

However, U.S. law provides many protections for legal and undocumented immigrants who have been victims of a crime. Specifically, The Violence against Women Act (VAWA) allows the spouses and children as well as parents of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents to self-petition to obtain lawful permanent residency in the United States. The provisions of this act which specifically deal with a woman without legal immigration status are designed to alleviate the fear of reporting crimes such as human trafficking, assault, and domestic violence; all of which are dangers faced by undocumented immigrants.

Though The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is the U.S. law that governs immigration, VAWA specifically addresses the issues of undocumented immigrants who face domestic violence and explains the eligibility requirements and procedures for filing a self-petition to gain legal status.

People who may apply include:

  • Spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • Child of U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • Spouse of U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who’s the child has been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty. In such cases, a parent can file a self-petition based on abuse of the child however both parent and  will child benefit
  • Parent of a U.S. citizen

It is very important to note that, despite its title, the VAWA applies to both men and women.

VAWA Provisions Designed to Curb Abuse

The need for the protections afforded to immigrants in VAWA is clear. The law has provisions designed to curb abuses that occur when some U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents abuse the immigration status of other family members by threatening to report them to the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS).  However, undocumented immigrants who have children who are U.S. citizens under the 14th Amendment also qualify for the protections given under VAWA.

VAWA protections for parents of U.S. citizens and lawful residents

In order to bring the application as the undocumented parent of a U.S. citizen, an immigrant must be:

  1. The parent of the of a U.S. citizen or lawful or legal permanent resident
  2. The child was subjected to “battery or extreme cruelty” during the marriage
  3. The child/parent has lived with U.S. citizen or lawful or legal permanent resident abuser in the United States
  4. The child/parent is a person of “good moral character”

The child/parent is still eligible for relief even if abuser loses legal immigrant status within the two years prior to the filing of a self-petition or if the parties have divorced within two years prior to the filing of the self-petition.  Furthermore, accommodations are also made for filing from abroad for spouses and children of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. These include government employees as well as members of Armed Services of US Government (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines). Once again, it is important to remember that the burden of proof falls on the petitioner and all required elements must be proven.

“Credible Evidence”

Contact Our Morristown Post-Secondary Education and Child Support Obligation Lawyers TodayAll “credible evidence” can be submitted in battered spouse and child cases. What is considered “credible evidence” is decided on a case-by-case basis with more weight given to primary evidence and evidence provided in court documents, medical reports, police reports, and other official documents.  Furthermore, greater weight will also likely be given to affidavits provided by more than one person.

With an eye on the greater powers that have been afforded to ICE authorities, the information provided in these proceedings is strictly confidential.  In no case is any Department of Justice employee permitted to use or disclose to anyone any information which relates to an alien who is the beneficiary of an application for relief under the VAWA provisions.

Contact Our Morristown Domestic Violence Attorneys Today

At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys have extensive experience helping clients across Madison, Randolph, Hanover, Florham Park, Tewksbury, Morristown, and the greater Morris County dealing with issues surrounding domestic violence including for those who are undocumented.

Our unique and personal approach focuses on finding solutions and using the law to protect the safety and interest of our clients. We understand the fear involved with reporting abuse and domestic violence when someone is undocumented. Remember that in the United States the law is on the side of the victim.

To speak with our firm today in a comprehensive and confidential case assessment regarding your case, please contact us online, or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 718-7705.

About the Author:

Jamie Berger practices exclusively in the area of family law. She has extensive experience in all aspects of litigation in family and appellate court proceedings. Prior to being a partner at Jacobs Berger, Jamie practiced at a boutique Morris County Matrimonial Law Firm for several years. Before that, Jamie served as a Law Clerk for The Honorable Eugene A. Iadanza, J.S.C. in the Monmouth County Superior Court, Family Part.

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