Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Harry's Law Highlights Abuse Against Men - A Very Real Occurrence

I applaud Hollywood for giving fair treatment to the very sensitive issue of male rape by a female in a recent episode of Harry's Law on NBC.  The show began with one of the characters actually questioning if it's possible to rape your partner in marriage, which shows society's bias towards assuming all sex is consensual or expected to happen since one is married so there is no such thing as marital rape. Whether rape happens in marriage or in a dating relationship, or by a stranger, rape is rape. It's a power struggle having nothing to do with sexual desire. Rape is about exerting control over another human being.

The second issue raised was whether it was even possible for a woman to rape a man. In this episode, the male character claimed he was raped because he was given a roofie type drug or Viagra with side effects that dropped his inhibitions and he was forced into something he did not want to do (and was mortified and humiliated to tell his wife).
Rape and male abuse by women is a very real occurrence but much less talked about because most men are too embarrassed to come forward. In the immigration context, this embarrassment is amplified by fear that they will lose their green card or status in the US if they come forward, under threat of retaliation from their wife. 
In the many cases I represent and the many men I speak to consultations in abusive marriages, the conduct of their wives in these marriages not only include rape, but humiliation in sexual relations and forced sexual performance under severe conditions. This is all done under the threat of deportation or even physical harm, if not by the woman sitting on top of the man's chest beating him - then by threat of her brother, father, or uncle beating her husband up if he does not comply with her demands or do what she wants. In addition, many of these men fail to report the conduct of their wives because of the societal stigma of reporting abuse, especially when they live in a culture from countries such as India and Thailand where the man is expected to be the dominant and head of the family.

It is also often extremely difficult to remarry after an arranged marriage has fallen apart, let alone if allegations of abuse were the reason for the split.

  • Divorce, itself, brings shame in many cultures on the entire family and dissolving the marriage because of an abusive wife creates the stigma that the man is not a real man or capable of handing his private affairs and controlling his wife's actions. 
  • A man can be in literal physical danger from his wife's family if he returns to his home country - for bringing shame or hurting the wife's reputation by reporting the abuse or telling anyone, making the threat of deportation that the wife uses to control him in the relationship -  that more scary and real for the immigrant husband, who often stays in an abusive relationship to avoid the cultural and physical dangers he would face back home.

Abuse against men can be physical, financial, and/or psychological/emotional.    The hardest part of my consultations is helping men recognize that they don't have to live with the abuse. Many have never been married before and expect that all marriages are full of arguments, physical violence, yelling tirades, mood swings, and isolation from friends and family - because they know no other reality than what they're living with their wife now.

Abused men can be manipulated in ways that aren't typically used against women such as:

  • being blackmailed into providing for the wife's family financially or 
  • being forced into unpaid labor for the wife's family all under threat of being deported for noncompliance. 
  • Many times, men are stalked at work and harassed all day over the phone and in person by their wives and their wives' family members that they lose productive jobs or are forced to quit because they can't maintain their concentration. 
  • Abusive wives are also known to steal vital birth certificates, immigration documents including green cards, passports, and social security cards, of their spouses, as well as money and their husband's credit cards to mandate obedience to their demands. 
Many times, abuse happens to very well-educated men who are  caught in situations they did not expect with a woman who turned into a different person after they married. They feel trapped and helpless to change their circumstances, with their abusive spouse dangling their immigration status over their heads.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Scary new House Bill Could Rip VAWA Protections for Immigrants Apart

This is a summary of a new urgent Alert from the National Immigration Project about a  new US House of Representatives bill to be voted on likely by May 8, 2012 that would  re-victimize survivors of domestic violence and other crimes by forcing victims to be interviewed by local immigration offices not specially trained in victim issues; allowing abusers to participate in the self-petition process; and repealing U-visa crime victims’ path to adjust status.

HR 4970 is a GOP VAWA bill that has been introduced on the House side. The bill contains numerous provisions that actually would roll back protections in current law for battered immigrants. 

The bill would have a number of disastrous effects on survivors, among them:

·         make it more difficult and risky for abused aliens to self-petition for immigration relief (Section 801);
·         require that abused aliens seeking U visas report the abuse within 60 days of its occurrence,
·         require that the statute of limitations has not lapsed on the crime embodied in the abuse, and
·         require that the crime embodied in the abuse is actively under investigation or prosecution (Section 802);
·         require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to issue a report on possible fraud in petitions and self-petitions by abused aliens for U and T visas  (Section 805);
·         repeal the provision in current law that makes it possible for "U" visa recipients to adjust to LPR status (Section 806);
·         provide exceptions to confidentiality promised to trafficking victims in order to permit information sharing "for national security purpose[s]" (Section 811);
·         require DHS to consider statements made by the abuser in cases where an abused alien is seeking (Section 812);
·         and a requirement that the GAO issue a report to Congress on the effectiveness of Section 802 (Section 813).

What you Can Do Now

Contact your House representatives (Call their office!!) to oppose HR 4970 (Cantor-Adams VAWA bill) 

House Switchboard:  (202) 225-3121 

Find Your Representative by Entering Your Zip Code: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/#altcontact

When you call, ask if they are aware how the bill would harm, not help, immigrant survivors. Express your dismay that HR 4970 fails to recognize how public safety and quality of life are enhanced by increased reporting and extending protection to ALL victims, including immigrant crime victims.  Tell them that you are horrified that the bill would also re-victimize survivors of domestic violence and other crimes by forcing victims to be interviewed by local immigration offices not specially trained in victim issues; allowing abusers to participate in the self-petition process; and repealing U-visa crime victims’ path to adjust status.

Most importantly, please forward this request to anyone you know who can vote and is opposed to such abusive, restrictive immigration laws and supports survivors of domestic violence- your friends, family, faith-based organizations, domestic violence/sexual assault counselors, public health organizations, and especially your LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTACTS—it is imperative that their voices and perspectives are heard NOW.

NIPNLG 1971-2011 - 40 years of working together for immigrant rights!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Unlawful Presence as a Child Can Come Back to Haunt You

USCIS's May 2009 Unlawful Presence Memo clarified how children can be affected by the permanent bar as adults for actions taken when they were under the age of 18. What's scary is that many immigrants are getting stuck abroad after their immigrant visa is denied at their consulate interview who had no idea about this change in policy.

A recurring problem I see in the waiver context is that many couples still resort to hiring notarios and document preparers for their I-130s (immigrant visa petitions) who do not know the law and fail to advise the couple of the risk that if the immigrant travels abroad, s/he may not be able to come back, sometimes for 10 years, sometimes longer depending on their past immigration history. I often receive calls from outside the US from an angry and frustrated US citizen who tells me that his wife was denied a visa and given the permanent bar and the notary they used never warned them. Now, they're stuck and have to consider seriously moving to Mexico. For years, Ciudad Juarez consulate applied the permanent bar against immigrants who had unlawful presence in their past and accrued under the age of 18. The CIS memo formalized this policy, falling in line with Ciudad Juarez's Department of State Consulate view, but now on a worldwide scale. Travel got even riskier. Yet, to this day, I still get the calls about immigrants stuck abroad because no one ever told them about the risks of travel.

One of the biggest, repeat problems I see now are with adults who entered the US illegally under the age of 18 who are now having problems applying for immigrant visas based on a family member or spouse's sponsorship now because of their illegal entry when s/he was a minor.  The understanding that a child could not have understood the consequences of their actions (illegally entering the US or overstaying) under the age of 18 has not been accepted by CIS in the unlawful presence context as is now formalized in its May 2009 memo.

The most notable problem is CIS's policy on the permanent bar.
Although CIS does not count unlawful presence (illegal stay in the US) against minors who have triggered the 10 year bar or the 3 year bar (unlawful presence doesn't start to add up until the child reaches 18), unlawful presence before the age of 18 does count against children for purposes of the permanent bar. 
If a child illegally re-enters the US after April 1, 1997 after being in the US previously for a year or more under the age of 18 after April 1, 1997, the child will have violated the "permanent bar."

The permanent bar does not allow for a waiver of the unlawful presence and the applicant must reside outside of the US for 10 years before reapplying for lawful entry. It doesn't matter if the child, now an adult, has an approved immigrant visa filed for him or her and waiting at the consulate abroad based on sponsorship by a US citizen spouse or parent or LPR spouse. The immigrant must reside outside of the US for ten years.

Note that the permanent bar is a different type of bar than the 10 year unlawful presence bar which would apply if an immigrant entered the US (illegally or legally and overstayed) and stayed for 1 year or more without lawful status and then departed the US. This waiver is waivable and if the waiver is approved, the immigrant can return to the US before the 10 year period. In contrast, the permanent bar provides no waiver and is triggered by that 1 year or more of unlawful presence or deportation followed by an illegal entry. If an immigrant had just departed the US and not re-entered, a waiver could be available. That's what so scary about the permanent bar, and now the fact that it is applying to apply against Adults based on their actions as child.

It is so important to always consult a competent immigration attorney before leaving the US or filing any documentation with USCIS and not rely on document preparers for legal advice. Doing so could be an incredibly costly and tragic mistake, leading to years of unnecessary separation from loved ones.