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Family Law Immigration Law

Divorce and the Undocumented Spouse

Divorcing Women Immigrants and VAWA; Part Two of a Two-Part Article

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) includes a procedure that gives legal status to immigrants who were abused by their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, who often use the immigration law as a cudgel of power and control.


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Last month, we introduced a hypothetical client named Elena, who had recently started divorce proceedings against her husband, but who soon began dragging her feet. It turned out that her husband had stopped working toward getting her a green card to stay in the country, and was threatening her with deportation, which could mean separation from her two children. And that’s not all: He has frequently threatened to kill her if she continues with the divorce; doesn’t let her leave the house to visit friends; tells her she is stupid; has threatened not to continue the immigration case if she doesn’t cooperate sexually; and hides money from her.

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