One of our priorities at Iowa JFON is the representation of abused immigrants, one of the most vulnerable and exploited populations in our midst. Since November 2013, we have been able to increase our capacity to serve victims of domestic violence and sexual assault with a grant from the Department of Justice, opening more than 60 new cases in 7 months and providing advice and counsel to several others who lacked a remedy under the law. It has been my honor to be able to advocate for these clients with local law enforcement and the Immigration Service.”
Esperanza* is a current client that came on our radar after she reached out to one of our local congregations that host monthly legal clinics in Fall 2013. Esperanza had been recently threatened with death and chased with a knife around her home by her intimate partner, thankfully she was able to escape his advances without physical injury and contact the police to arrest her abuser.
Ultimately, her abuser was arrested and removed from the country due to his crime against Esperanza. As she was helpful to local law enforcement in the investigation of the domestic assault, she received a certification of helpfulness in order to apply for a U-Visa, meant for immigrant victims of certain crimes who aid law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime committed against them.
The U-Visa would mean incredible things for Esperanza. She desperately wants to work, simply to be able to provide adequate sustenance for her two young boys here- and if she is approved, she will be able to do that with a work permit valid for four years. She also will be able to work towards permanent residency, which she could apply for within 3 years of having her U-Visa.
Esperanza sadly had to leave behind three young daughters in her home country, and if she is approved for the visa, she can also apply to reunite with her daughters in the U.S. She has known crushing poverty, physical abuse, and a lack of education for most of her days on this earth, both in her home country and in her sojourn here in the U.S. We presented the best case possible for her, hoping that she will have the opportunity to live and work securely, free from abuse, and we will continue to represent her interests throughout the process of her application.
My office came into contact with Trisha* after she came to a Women’s Shelter to escape the violence and control in her home. She had met her husband during one of her visits to the U.S. on a valid visa and decided to stay and marry him—and imagined that all would continue in marriage as their happy dating had gone. Sadly, her husband began to exercise tyranny over her life- limiting her communication with others, keeping her from going to the store and pursuing work and education, and, using her immigration status against her.
One of the only places he allowed her to go in public was church. Even though he had ample opportunity to apply for her to become a legal permanent resident through marriage, he made excuses and maintained power by keeping her in immigration status limbo.
As his erratic behavior began to increase, he kept food from Trisha and her young daughter, broke their phones in fits of violence, and constantly threatened deportation. As police became aware of the situation, they encouraged Trisha to leave and be fed and safe elsewhere. As she had reached a place of total depression and from the daily fear of survival and uncertainty of the future, she made a brave step towards freedom and left her husband.
We were able to apply for Trisha and her daughter to receive the classification of a “battered spouse or one subjected to extreme cruelty” and, with ample evidence supporting her statements, we have the hope that within the year she will be able to receive the stability that comes with a legal status, to begin again in this country. She is so grateful for supporters like you, who have given sacrificially so that those like her, who are normally hidden from view, can emerge from the shadows and join society as full members!
*Names are changed to protect confidentiality