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A Success Story: Saving A Battered Spouse From Deportation

February 2010 - By Shahzad Ahmed with NeJame Law

In November of 2008, a divorced woman of Egyptian origin consulted with us about her immigration options. She was in removal proceedings after her ex-husband, a U.S. citizen, had abandoned the immigration petition he filed for her. Her previous attorney, not seeing any form of relief, had abruptly withdrawn from her case, leaving her unrepresented.

We carefully considered various options. The client was not eligible for Cancellation of Removal since she had not been in the U.S. for 10 years prior to the commencement of the deportation proceedings. She had entered the U.S. in 2001 on a visit visa and overstayed her status. She did have custody of her U.S. citizen child with her ex-husband. But since this daughter was only 4 years of age, she was not eligible to petition for our client.

With no other options remaining, we closely questioned our client about the nature of the relationship with her former husband. We concluded that while the marriage was bona fide (not for the purpose of evading the immigration laws), the client was troubled and holding back some information. We advised her that it was important to disclose everything to us and that she should return for another meeting mentally prepared to share more details with us.

About a week later, the client contacted our firm again for a second meeting. During this meeting, she shared more details about her relationship with her ex-husband. The client revealed suppressed memories of horrific abuse by her spouse. Slowly and emotionally, she explained how her ex-husband had physically abused her, isolated her and even forced her to perform an abortion. We concluded that our client was eligible for Special Rule Cancellation of Removal for a Battered Spouse.

For this type of Cancellation of Removal, the applicant must prove that she has been continuously residing in the U.S. for at least 3 years, that she has born good moral character during this time and that she has been subjected to physical abuse or extreme cruelty. We began documenting her case with all the evidence. We requested our client to provide as much evidence of the abuse as possible. Since such evidence is usually hard to obtain, we also had our client obtain a psychological evaluation to confirm symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Accordingly, we filed for this relief with the Immigration Judge, who scheduled a trial date for this case. At the trial, the government opposed the grant of Cancellation of Removal, partly on the grounds that during her marriage interview while she was married to her now ex-husband, the client did not mention anything about the abuse. Over our objection, the Immigration Judge agreed with the government's counsel, finding the client's story not credible and denied relief.

Our firm immediately filed an appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals. In our appeal, we argued that requiring the applicant to disclose the abuse would undermine the very purpose of the VAWA legislation, which was to protect the victim who is afraid of the immigration consequences of disclosing the abuse. Moreover, the officer conducting the marriage interview never asked our client whether she was abused.

In September of 2010, the Board of Immigration Appeals issued a decision favorably to our client. The Board agreed with our reasoning and granted Cancellation of Removal to our client.

8 years after the abusive relationship, our client received justice. Now she is on her way to becoming a lawful permanent resident. This case illustrates the complexity of immigration law; yet knowledge of the law and persistence can lead to justice.

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