The relationships we form with others are a vital part of our emotional and mental wellbeing – some would argue that they are essential to our survival. They definitely play an important role in one’s immigration status in the U.S., as marriage or a family connection to a citizen or lawful permanent resident affects the terms of one’s residency.
What happens if that relationship is difficult or even dangerous? Maybe your U.S. citizen spouse beats you when he becomes frustrated or your wife, who is a green card holder, is threatening to accuse you of domestic violence so you’ll be “kicked out of the country.” What can you do?
Immigration and Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is defined as actual or threatened abusive conduct against an intimate partner or someone related by blood or marriage. Examples of abuse include physical, verbal, or sexual assault, threatening to harm the person, destroying their property, and harassing or stalking them.
When the victim is an immigrant, their sponsor may use fear of deportation to threaten and control them. If the victim disobeys them, the abuser could threaten to withdraw their petition or turn them over to law enforcement to be deported, and sometimes they do.
If you are a non-citizen being abused by your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides ways for you to get lawful status. You could self-petition for yourself and your children instead of relying on an abusive sponsor and even obtain a cancellation of removal if removal proceedings have already been initiated against you. This form of deportation relief is available to both male and female victims of domestic violence.
If you are a non-citizen accused of domestic violence, a conviction can have a devastating effect on your immigration status. Under Section 237 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, any crime of violence can result in deportation. Domestic violence offenses are also considered crimes of moral turpitude, which can also be deportable offenses.
What If the Allegations Are False?
While the law usually requires that you be convicted in order for deportation to be a risk, this isn’t always the case. When you apply for U.S. citizenship, you must indicate whether you have ever been arrested or detained by law enforcement. This question is one of many that determines whether you have the good moral character required for citizenship.
If you don’t disclose that you were arrested for domestic violence or acquitted at trial, you can lose your chance at citizenship, based on misrepresentation and lack of good moral character. Every applicant undergoes a fingerprint check, so your arrest record is readily available to the immigration officer. As soon as you are accused or arrested, and certainly before entering into any plea bargain with the prosecution in state court, you should consult an immigration attorney who will review the potential impact of your arrest on your application and help you put together a strategy to eliminate or minimize any damage.
What if You Have Charges Pending?
In today’s political climate, many non-citizens with charges pending are being arrested by ICE and held pending deportation proceedings. If this happens to you after being charged with domestic violence, a deportation defense attorney can help you pursue strategies such as Cancellation of Removal and appealing a removal order.
Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney
Victims of domestic violence and those who have been wrongly accused of domestic violence face significant immigration challenges. At the Law Offices of Connie Kaplan, PA, we will use our knowledge of VAWA and deportation defense experience to prevent your difficulties from jeopardizing your life in the U.S. For more information, please contact us.