Contributed by Melanie Corrin, Senior Attorney
“Fatima” is a young undocumented immigrant. She is married to a United States citizen and has three children. Her husband has taken her passport, all of her identifying documents, does not allow her to drive or to leave the house without his permission. She is regularly ridiculed by him and if something in the home is not exactly perfect she is beaten. Her oldest child is starting to speak to her in the same demeaning tone as her husband does and she has no immediate family or friends close by to help her. She wants to call the police but she lives in fear that they will not help her, and that she may be taken from her children.
Fatima and her husband reside in the United States, and as a United States citizen he can petition for a visa for her to be eligible to apply for permanent resident status; but she is undocumented because he controls the family home and finances and she is unaware that she can petition for herself as an abused spouse. She is terrified to call the police because she knows that they have the right to arrest her and contact Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to turn her in for being undocumented. As time goes on the beating becomes worse and this human’s life is left in shambles.
In 1994 the United States Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act, allowing victims like of domestic violence, like Fatima, to petition for their own permanent residence if they were undocumented and married to a United States Citizen or Permanent Resident. The Act empowers abused women to come forward without fear of removal from the United States; often these women are kept undocumented by their abusers as a part of the mental humiliation that so often is attendant to abuse, it is used against them as part of the abusers control tactics.
VAWA was reauthorized in 2000 and again in 2005. The Act must be reauthorized in 2012 or it will expire. Congress has failed to act, and if they do not reauthorize this legislation, eighteen years bi-partisan protection for and support to women will simply vanish.
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