U Visa Victory Enables Abused Bolivian Immigrant To Earn Permanent Residence
After dating a couple of years, Camila married Erick. They had six children, three born in their home country of Bolivia. The youngest three were born in the United States.
Shortly after their marriage, Erick began to mistreat and physically abuse Camila. Out of love and belief things would work out, she followed him to the U.S.
His behavior never improved.
Shortly after Camila arrived, Erick became a lawful permanent resident. He refused to file documents to immigrate her or their three children born in Boliva.
Erick consistently denied paternity of the youngest three children, even though he controlled all aspects of Camila’s life here in the U.S. He did not allow her to work, attend church, or have outside friends. He did not allow her to take English classes. He did not allow her access to finances or household bills.
He cut her head with a knife. On another occasion, he threw an ax at her while she gave the kids a bath. She moved to dodge the ax and fractured her elbow. He often hit her with his fists closed.
As an undocumented Bolivian immigrant, Camila was afraid to reach out to the police for help.
When she was pregnant with their fifth child, he grabbed her by the hair and threw her out the window. Her chin and right arm required stitches, she was sent to the hospital.
Neighbors called the police. He want to jail for 42 days.
He was arrested and convicted of spousal abuse. The court ordered him to complete a year-long anger management course, during which he was encouraged to file immigration petitions on behalf of Corina and his Bolivia-born children.
However, the physical violence and mental abuse did not end. Once Erick completed his probation term, he began to abuse Camila again. About a year later, he left the family and filed for divorce.
When USCIS requested additional documents, Erick refused to respond. Camilia and the three children remained Bolivian immigrants without legal status.
Camila began a slow process of recovery. She began to attend a local church and made some friends there. Finally free to work, Camila began to clean houses for a living. Her two older children found jobs and helped with household expenses.
Two years later, Erick was arrested for alien smuggling. Since the government’s evidence against him was weak, they turned him over to immigration officials based on his domestic violence conviction.
The agents in charge of his case contacted Camila, whom they knew was undocumented. They offered not to pursue deportation against her and the three children born in Bolivia if she would cooperate with their investigation of Erick’s smuggling activities.
Camila was reluctant.
Although she was not aware of Erick’s secret activities, Camila knew a lot about his social connections and other information which might help them. Yet, she was afraid of Erick’s violence and worried about retribution from his contacts if she cooperated.
But after weighing her options, she realized that being sent back to Bolivia with her children was a worse option, especially if Erick was eventually deported. Thus, she agreed to cooperate.
As the investigation dragged on, the lead agent suggested Corina look into the Violence Against Women program for immigrant victims of spousal abuse. He mentioned that if she filed such papers, he would write a letter of support.
A few months afterwards, church friends told her about a community forum for immigrants lacking legal status. At the event, she learned about VAWA and learned the program could help her possibly win permanent residency without Erick’s help.
She decided to inquire further. She visited the office of an immigration paralegal suggested by her church friends. He told her that she qualified for green card benefits under VAWA due to the history of domestic violence and physical abuse.
She borrowed money to pay the paralegal and filing fees. She felt emotional and psychological relief. Her long and painful ordeal in the United States was coming to an end.
A half-year later, her application was denied.
The paralegal told her there was nothing more he could do for her.
He never explained what went wrong.
Two months later, Camila was served with a Notice To Appear at immigration court. Despite its earlier promises, the government decided to file deportation charges against her as an alien present in the U.S. without having been admitted or paroled.
Not knowing where to turn, Camila contacted Carlos at his San Bernardino immigration law office for possible assistance. She was told that he had handled cases for other Bolivian immigrants who suffered domestic violence.
This time, she brought a friend to her consultation. Both were encouraged by the amount of hope Carlos gave them during his long personalized evaluation of Camila’s situation.
Based on the vast background information she provided, prompted by Carlos’ questions, Carlos informed Camila there were several options worth exploring.
- First, he wanted to look into VAWA again. She did not have copies and her paralegal did not keep copies. Since she did not why she lost her VAWA case, Carlos said he would obtain all her records from the government. He stressed it was possible that he could raise VAWA again at immigration court – but he needed to know why her application was denied to correct any mistakes in advance.
- Second, Carlos discussed the petition filed by Erick on her behalf. Camila insisted, in spite of their divorce, the petition was approved, and this meant she could apply for permanent resident. Carlos disagreed. But he explained by using the approved petition, her oldest-born U.S. child could try to immigrate her when he turned 21 years old.
- Third, Cancellation of Removal for undocumented immigrants. Camila had been here over 10 years and her U.S. citizen children were still under 21. It was possible she could win a green card but she would have to prove extreme hardship, a difficult standard. Given Camila’s immigration and personal history, Carlos felt she could present a strong case.
- Fourth, Carlos informed her about a new law, the U Visa, which had went into effect a few months before. Like VAWA, the U Visa was a special immigration program enacted to protect victims of crime. Although the guidelines and forms had not been fully developed, Carlos asserted that if he could convince the agent who had worked with Camila to write a letter of support, confirming her helpfulness to his agency, the court might close her deportation case for three to four years.
Because the first and third options could only be decided by an immigration judge, Carlos suggested using a combination of the second and fourth options as an initial strategy.
In Carlos’ view, if Camila could obtain a U Visa reprieve from the court for 3 – 4 years, her oldest U.S. child would be eligible to immigrate her. He would turn 21 in two years. By then, as a lawful permanent resident, Camila would no longer be subject to being deported for having entered without inspection.
The strategy worked. The immigration judge closed her case on the basis of the U Visa certification by immigration authorities. Three years later, Camila was granted lawful permanent residency status.
Today, she works part-time at a shelter for abused women of domestic violence. Camila is now a U.S. citizen, all of her Bolivia-born children are also legalized residents, and she is happily remarried.
No matter how difficult the road ahead may seem, do not give up without exploring all your options. This series of immigrant success stories is dedicated to those who refuse to stop believing that some day, somehow, victory will be theirs.
This article about the U Visa and permanent residence is Example Number 12 on the different types of challenges and obstacles which immigration lawyer Carlos Batara has helped immigrants overcome.
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