Good News (I-765V) and Tragic News (Arrest at TPO Hearing) for Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence

There’s been a lot of fear and panic in the immigrant community lately – and understandably so. For a few short paragraphs,  though, let’s talk about a positive development that happened earlier this week.  Then we have to return to reality with some shocking news out of Texas.

First the good news…

On February 14, 2017 USCIS introduced the I-765V, Application for Employment Authorization for Abused Nonimmigrant Spouse. We’ve known for a few months that this was happening and I’m grateful for this ray of hope.  It allows abused spouses of certain types of non-immigrant visa holders to apply for work authorization.

Previously, only spouses of U.S. citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents could seek immigration relief through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) or people who reported the domestic violence and were able to apply for U Status.

This is wonderful news because it will allow abused spouses to gain their independence. Generally spouses of these non-immigrants are not allowed to work. That not only means no income, but it often means no driver’s license, either. These factors contribute to keeping the abuser in control. By being able to obtain work authorization, these abused individuals can lead their lives separately from their abusers.

Qualifications

  • Married to someone with the following non-immigrant classifications: A, E-3, G or H
  • If no longer married, you can file within two years of the divorce or death or the non-immigrant visa holder
  • Abuse or extreme cruelty occurred to the spouse (or child) during the marriage and in the United States
  • The applicant must reside in the United States
  • No police report necessary – can demonstrate extreme cruelty/abuse with a variety of evidence

And now the tragic…

A woman seeking a protective order against her husband was arrested and detained by ICE when she was at a courthouse in Texas. She had a prior order of removal and conviction, but she did not have any criminal issues pending. She went to seek protection – from a man who had a history of violence abuse  – and she left in custody. The person who tipped off ICE about her whereabouts? Her abusive husband.

The full story is available on the Washington Post website.

This goes beyond all human decency and cannot be tolerated. Not only does it disincentive people from reporting domestic violence, but it gives the abuser another tool to use against his victim. Personal safety, human rights – these basic fundamentals of human existence do not disappear when you cross a border.  I sincerely hope this is an isolated incident that will not be repeated anywhere else.

I share this story to tell you that the fears you have are warranted, but also to tell you that immigration lawyers are here to fight for you and that the world is watching.

-Tracie