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DV 101


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Immigrant Women


Immigrant Battered Women's Project


Battered immigrant women who do not have legal immigration documents to reside in the United States face serious challenges to obtaining safety and freedom from abuse. These women suffer the terror of domestic violence made worse by language and cultural barriers. Immigrant battered women are often unfamiliar with the American justice system, are fearful of police, and are powerless to counter the abuser's control over them. Life Span's Immigrant Battered Women's Project offers hope to these women, and a real opportunity to improve their lives and the lives of their children.


Elena, who came to this country from Mexico,
lived for years with her citizen husband despite his frequent beatings. Elena had met and began a relationship with her husband Jim while he was working in Mexico, and came to the U.S. to marry him when he was transferred back to Chicago. Once they lived here, Jim repeatedly promised to file immigration papers for Elena, but he kept putting it off. Once Elena got pregnant, Jim started hitting her. When their child was born, Jim told Elena she must obey him or he would have her deported. Jim told her that if she tried to leave him, he would prevent her from taking their baby with her. Elena, who spoke only Spanish and had no friends or family in Chicago, felt that she was at Jim's mercy. When Elena became pregnant again, Jim became more violent. He pushed her down the stairs, causing her to suffer a miscarriage. Although Elena was terrified that she would be forced to return to Mexico, leaving her daughter behind, she sought help at Life Span.


Life Span's Immigrant Battered Women's Project
attorneys responded immediately. Both the paralegal and the attorney in this project speak Spanish, so they were able to communicate with Elena. To keep Elena and her baby safe, the attorney filed an Order of Protection case for her, providing her with protection from Jim's abuse. The Order of Protection gave Elena temporary custody of her daughter and prevented Jim from coming to their house. Elena was tremendously relieved to learn she is eligible to seek lawful immigration status under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This federal law allows battered women married to abusers who are citizens or permanent residents to file immigration papers on their own behalf, and not depend on the abusive husband to petition for them.

Life Span attorneys began the lengthy and complicated process of preparing Elena's VAWA petition. The attorney will file the documents, assist Elena in the collection of evidence, and represent her in any immigration proceedings. Life Span's assistance gives Elena the freedom to end her relationship with Jim, knowing that she can stay in the United States legally and raise her daughter in the country of her birth. Our Immigration Project helps hundreds of women like Elena each year seek lawful immigration status, ensuring that these clients can seek safety without fear of deportation.

To learn more about this project or to refer a client, please call:  Life Span's Center for Legal Services and Advocacy at 312/408-1210.


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