Immigration Implications of Domestic Violence in NJ


In recent months, incidents of domestic violence involving NFL players, like Ray Rice, and their significant others have thrust the issue of domestic violence into the national spotlight.  Victim advocacy groups have taken this opportunity to spread awareness of the issue and resources for victims. Domestic Violence can be highly problematic for immigrant abusers and perhaps a stepping stone to a better life for the immigrant victim.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is defined by the U.S. Department of Justice as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.”  The term Domestic Violence includes physical, sexual, emotional, economic, and psychological abuse or threats of actions that can influence a partner.

What are some examples of Abuse?

  1. Physical Abuse: Hitting, shoving, grabbing, hair pulling, and biting are some examples.  It also includes denying a partner medical care or forcing ingestion of alcohol drugs.
  2. Sexual Abuse: Forced or attempted forced sexual contact without consent.  It also includes marital rape.
  3. Emotional Abuse: Undermining your partner’s self-worth is abuse. Examples, are constant criticism, name-calling, or damaging your partner’s relationship with his or her children. Emotional abuse is usually found with other forms abuse.
  4. Economic Abuse: Trying to force your partner’s financial dependence by keeping total control over financial resources.  For example, withholding access to money or preventing employment.
  5. Psychological Abuse: Causing fear by intimidation; threatening physical harm; destruction of pets and property; and forcing isolation from family, friends, or school or work.

What if Ray Rice wasn’t a U.S. citizen but an immigrant?

Ray Rice is a U.S. citizen, but if he wasn’t he likely would already be in removal proceedings (deportation hearing).  For Deferred Action purposes, domestic violence is a significant misdemeanor and an automatic disqualifier for President Obama’s recent Executive Action.  Even though he applied for a Pre-Trial Investigation program (I discussed it in a prior post here) and if he completes it all charges will be dismissed, the video showing him hitting his wife would enough for an Immigration Judge to find he assaulted his wife.  At the very least, that would be a Crime of Moral Turpitude.  Depending on the gravity of the harm he caused, it could be an Aggravated Felony.

What if Janay Rice was an immigrant?

At time of the incident, Janay Rice was engaged to Ray Rice.  Had she not gotten married, she likely would have qualified for a U-Visa.  The U-visa allows immigrant victims to obtain legal status by helping law enforcement to investigate and prosecute criminals.  The U-visa provides the opportunity to help the victim’s entire family by providing them with “Derivative” nonimmigrant U-visa status. That means if successful, her children (less than 21 and not married) would also receive U-Visa status, even if they aren’t in the U.S.  If Janay later marries another person and then applies for U-Visa her then spouse would also be considered a derivative.

To qualify for a U-visa Janay would have to:

  1. Be a victim of a qualifying crime which occurred in the U.S. or under U.S. law
  2. Be able to provide information about the crime or be ‘helpful’ to law enforcement
  3. Have suffered substantial emotional or physical abuse and
  4. Be admissible to the U.S. or eligible for a waiver
  5. In addition to these requirements one must obtain a Law Enforcement Certification

Since Janay is now married, she would also qualify for VAWA

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows certain abused family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents to petition on their own for a green card without the “help” of the abuser.  Too often the abuser will use his or her legal status to “control” the immigrant victim.  You should not have to stay in an abusive relationship only to hopefully acquire legal status.  With VAWA you can apply on your own. You will still need to document the validity of the relationship, and this can be challenging, but it is a self-petition.

To qualify for VAWA, Janay would have to:

  1. Janay’s abusive qualifying relative (in this case spouse) is or was a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;
  2. Janay lived with her abuser;
  3. Janay must be a person of “good moral character.”  This is a catch all, so even if Janay wasn’t convicted of a disqualifying crime under the totality of circumstances immigration doesn’t believe she deserves this benefit;
  4. The abuse must constitute battery or “extreme cruelty” which can include psychological or emotional abuse.  Janay doesn’t have to suffer physical abuse to be eligible (here she did).
  5. Janay must be admissible to the U.S.  The VAWA process is more forgiving than general adjustment of status, and even if she was convicted of certain crimes or entered the U.S. without permission she may qualify for a waiver.

If you face an immigration challenge we have some valuable resources for you:

  • Do You Need an Immigration Attorney? You Might Not – I will explain when you need an immigration attorney.  Not every needs one.  I will also explain the benefits of hiring one in any immigration challenge.
  • 7 Critical Questions to ask Before Hiring an Immigration Attorney – If you have decided that you need an immigration attorney, how do you make sure you hire a good one?  I explain to you the questions you need to ask before you hire your immigration attorney.
  • An Immigrant’s Guide to Municipal Court – Here I discuss what happens if you get arrested by Immigration Customs Enforcement, what you need to know to get out of custody, and what to expect if you are placed in removal hearings.  I also explain the municipal court process and how a municipal court matter can result in your being placed into removal proceedings.

If you have immigration questions, we have answers.

You can:

  1. Call our knowledgeable staff at 888-695-6169;
  2. Fill out our contact us form on this page; or
  3. Select our live chat feature to speak to someone right away.

We help immigrants, one petition at a time.

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