Relief for Victims of Domestic Violence at the Hands of U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident Family Members

AuthorElizabeth Anne Campbell; Rachel DeLia Settlage; Veronica Thronson
I. Introduction
Family-based immigration is the most highly utilized category of lawful
immigration to the United States.1 However, immigration law is structured
so that it is the U.S. citizen (USC) or lawful permanent resident (LPR) who
petitions for a family member, which can include spouses, children, and in
some cases, parents or siblings. The beneciaries of the family-based peti-
tions, the immigrants, cannot petition on their own for immigration status
based upon their family relationship. Thus, our immigration system puts
the control and power in family-based immigration cases in the hands of
the USC or LPR.
In an abusive relationship, a USC or LPR abuser can use this power
against his immigrant family member and to further his own abusive actions.
1. See D’  H S., 2012 Y  I S,
T 6, P O L P R S  T 
M C  A: F Y 2003  2012, http:// www .dhs .gov /
Chapter 2
Relief for Victims of Domestic
Violence at the Hands of U.S.
Citizen or Lawful Permanent
Resident Family Members
Settlage_ImmRelief_20140717_09-11_Final.indd 11 7/17/14 9:12 AM
When an immigrant spouse is dependent on her abusive partner for immigra-
tion status, it makes that spouse all the more vulnerable and dependent on
the goodwill of her partner.2 The abuser not only has the power to decide
when and whether a family-based petition will be led, but also once it is
led, an abuser can withdraw that petition or refuse to follow through on
the full process. Abusers can also use the threat of deportation, including
of dependent children, as a means of control.
Immigrants who experience domestic violence are in a particularly vul-
nerable position. In addition to the physical and psychological effects of
the abuse, a battered immigrant may be isolated due to language barri-
ers, tight-knit communities, and cultural norms about family that prevent
her from seeking help.3 Even if a battered immigrant wants help, she may
be unaware of resources that might be available to her and may not even
know that domestic violence is a crime in the United States. Further, some
battered immigrants may fear or distrust the police or others because of
the conditions in their home country or because they fear that seeking help
will lead to their deportation.4
II. Self-Petitions Under the Violence Against Women
Act (VAWA) for Victims of Domestic Violence Seeking
Legal Status
In 1994, Congress recognized that domestic violence was a problem in the
United States and passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in order
to provide resources and safety for battered women and to address cultural
2. See 139 C. R. H10349-01 (Nov. 20, 1993) (statement of Rep. Slaughter),
1993 WL 479279; see also H.R. R. N. 103-395, at 26 (1993).
3. See H.R. R. N. 106-891, at 90 (2000).
4. See 146 C. R. H8086-02 (Sept. 26, 2000) (statement of Rep. Jackson-Lee),
2000 WL 1403825; see also Battered Immigrant Women Protection Act of 1999:
Hearing on H.R. 3083 Before the H. Subcomm. on Immigration and Claims of the
Comm. of the Judiciary, 106th Cong. (2000).
ChApter 212
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