Domestic Violence at the Mexican-American Border

April 27, 2012

One key aspect of a domestic violence relationship is the cycle of power and control. San Diego community service programs such as the San Diego Family Justice Center recognize this cycle of abuse and help victims break through the destructive pattern. One method of control often utilized particularly by domestic violence abusers in San Diego is immigration status. San Diego's location so close to the Mexican-American border is an ideal place for many Mexican immigrants. Further, some immigrants are native Spanish speakers and are unable or struggle to understand and/or speak English. Many abusers exploit this language barrier as a tool to maintain control over their partners. Because immigrants fear deportation and are uninformed regarding various United States' laws and regulations in place to protect them, they feel trapped and continue to remain in abusive relationships.

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Domestic violence abusers use one or a variety of methods to use immigration status as a tool to manipulate and control their victims. First, the batterer may promise to file papers to legalize the immigration status of his or her victim. Once the victim believes he or she may have a chance to become a legal citizen, the batterer may fail to file, withdraw or threaten to withdraw the necessary paperwork. The victim's immigration status becomes a weapon used against him or her. Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in order to help domestic violence victims through this form of abuse by providing them with a method of gaining citizenship independent of their abuser. Although the act is entitled the Violence Against Women Act, men may also apply for relief under VAWA provided they satisfy the eligibility requirements. Under the act, a victim may apply for permanent-resident status and neutralize the fear of deportation.

There are three different categories that may qualify an individual for permanent-resident status independent of his or her abuser:

(1) The applicant is the battered spouse of a United States citizen or permanent legal resident;
(2) the applicant was abused by a parent or stepparent who is a United States citizen or permanent legal resident; or
(3) the applicant was abused by his or her United States citizen adult son or daughter.

In addition to the availability of permanent-resident status, a battered spouse may be eligible to apply for battered spouse or child waiver. If the victim is a conditional legal permanent resident as a spouse of a United States citizen or legal permanent resident then the victim may be entitled to the waiver. The battered spouse or child waiver entitles the victim to file a petition without the necessary joint petitioner. Therefore, the victim no longer needs the consent or aid of his or her abuser to petition for citizenship or permanent resident-status. The provisions of VAWA may be able to provide additional protection to the victim's children If you are considering leaving an abusive intimate partner be cautious of the various safety concerns. The escape of a battered victim is often the most dangerous time period for all parties involved. Various community service programs are available for victims to provide information and help formulate a safe and effective flight plan.

Please contact us if you have questions regarding domestic violence or obtaining a restraining order. Immigration is a complicated area of family law and it is important to consult with an experienced attorney regarding these matters. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.