The Politics of Humanity: Deporting Victims of Abuse

Date Put forth on January 30, 2008 by XicanoPwr
Category Posted in Immigration

America’s sudden interest in the Black and Brown tension that has recently dominated the airwaves has only provided a perfect cover for the anti-immigration forces. Last year, I wrote a post about Emelina Ramirez Bojorquez, the Georgia immigrant who was thrown into detention as an “illegal alien” after a domestic disturbance. This time, Ana Bertha Arellano, who lives in Sacramento, is not only a victim of domestic abuse, but also a victim of an overzealous government agency that feels they are above the law.

Arellano, who was snuck into the United States by her husband, a permanent resident, was beaten and humiliated for more than nine years. Like Emelina Ramirez, Arellano never had her immigration status adjusted for permanent residency. In the beginning of her marriage, her husband would tell her he was going to get the process going so she could attain legal residence. However, this turned out to be a lie because he used her undocumented status to prevent her from complaining about his subsequent beatings and verbal taunts.

After years of being beaten and humiliated, she muster up enough courage to leave her abusive husband and sought help from the Mexican Consulate. There, officials recommended she apply for a temporary visa under Violence Against Women Act, the law that protects undocumented immigrants from abusive spouses who use their position as citizens to intimidate their spouses who did not have legal immigrant status in the United States. The law allows the abused spouse to file a self-petition for legal residency based on marriage to an abusive citizen or LPR, who will not file a petition for them.

Arellano hired a lawyer and petitioned for legal residency under that program. She was granted a visa under VAWA and a work permit so she could support herself and her children by working legally. To support herself and her children, she has opened her own restaurant in Sacramento and is receiving health insurance by working as a janitor, which she cleans offices all night. However, this might come to a crashing halt. Once again, the Department of Homeland Security has decided to abuse their prosecutorial discretion. Homeland Security has now set its sight on victims of domestic abuse as they are now considering eliminating the domestic violence program that was meant to protect people like Emelina Ramirez Bojorquez and Ana Bertha Arellano.

“I have my own health insurance. I don’t take any aid for anything. I don’t want anything else but a chance to have some stability for my family,” said Arellano, 37, one of the thousands of immigrants, many mothers of U.S.-born children, who could be affected if the policy shifts.

After applying for her green card six months ago, she is now being told by the Sacramento office of Citizenship and Immigration Services that her application for a green card has been put on hold. According to the Sacramento Bee, Homeland Security is considering whether to reject green-card petitions for immigrant abuse survivors if they entered the United States in the past illegally. The Bee also reported that more than 30,670 immigrants married to US spouses have been granted Violence Against Women Act visas, however, now they will soon be in limbo. Arellano fears that her green-card application will soon be rejected and being deported is the ultimate punishment for her.

Spousal abuse has long been one of the most critical and widespread problems endured by women who do not have legal residency in the United States but are married to someone who does. The argument anti-immigrant nativist use to justify Arellano’s deportation and people like her is simple, battered undocumented women should not be treated any differently as any other undocumented immigrant, therefore, they should be sent back to their homelands. Another argument that is often made is that the fact that they have suffered abuse is a tragedy, but by allowing battered spouses to stay in this country; other immigrant groups will also try to use the same excuse. It is interesting how simplistic they make their arguments and sadly, it unfairly blames the victim and not the truly guilty party, the perpetrator of the violence.

While it is true that there are millions of reported/unreported incidents of domestic violence occurring across the country, the fact is domestic abuse remains to be a social crisis people rather not talk about. Immigrant women, like other abused women, may depend on their abusers for financial support, and breaking free of dependency is never easy. If they do escape, many of them face barriers, which often include language difficulties and cultural communities that discourage victims from talking about the abuse.

By eliminating the Violence Against Women Act’s domestic violence program, Homeland Security will only force more battered immigrants into the shadows and some into an early grave at the hands of their abuser. Domestic violence is a social problem of epidemic proportions that must be eradicated. By not responding to Arellano’s plight now, we send out the message that there really is no justice for immigrants who are victims of domestic violence.

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12 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. odd People Without Status « Tiny Cat Pants Trackback on Jan 30th, 2008 at 8:15 pm
  2. even Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Clinton: “No Legal Process” For Immigrants Who Commit Crimes Trackback on Jan 31st, 2008 at 9:25 am
  3. odd La Chola » Blog Archive » the rights feminists fight for are not rights until they can not be taken away. Trackback on Jan 31st, 2008 at 11:22 am
  4. even Blog Redirect: The Politics of Humanity « Vox ex Machina Trackback on Feb 1st, 2008 at 1:45 pm
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  10. even » California Bill Aimed at Assisting Immigrant Victims of Domestic Abuse - By ¡Para Justicia y Libertad! Trackback on Apr 28th, 2008 at 1:49 pm
  11. odd Confronting Citizenship in Sexual Assault « INCITE! Blog Trackback on Apr 27th, 2010 at 4:27 pm
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  1. Gravatar Icon Nezua Limon Xolagrafik-Jonez Jan 30th, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    great post. important post. thanks for your work, ‘mano.

  2. Gravatar Icon XicanoPwr Jan 30th, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    Thanks ‘mano. Hopefully something can come out of this, like I don’t know … a response by CCIR or MIRA or ICIRR

    wink wink if any of their people are reading this.

  3. Gravatar Icon brownfemipower Jan 31st, 2008 at 11:20 am

    ::blood boils::
    oooh, there are just no words right now. no words.

  4. Gravatar Icon Green Card Visa Mar 24th, 2010 at 8:28 am

    How sad is it that these abuse cases are so common that they had to make a whole separate act to address them? Still, I do understand the government’s viewpoint on this. She did enter illegally before, and that forever flags her as a sort of lawbreaker. I didn’t say I agree with it (and I do NOT), but I do see where they are coming from..

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