Many female immigrants married to U.S. citizens who are victims of domestic violence feel like helpless prisoners in their own home mostly because they are unaware that help is just a phone call away. I have filed for divorce on behalf of many women who have sustained physical abuse at the hands of their husbands for years, and sometimes decades. Many of these women thought they had no choice but to remain married and endure the abuse because they were undocumented aliens and had no legal status in the U.S. However, increasingly more women are becoming aware that there are both state and federal laws designed to protect undocumented aliens that are being physically abused by citizen spouses.
In Florida state courts, for example, prosecutors can file criminal charges against a physically abusive spouse. If convicted, an abusive spouse can potentially face jail time and/or fines. In Florida state civil courts, judges can protect victims of domestic violence by issuing restraining orders against their abusers thereby forcing the abusers to stay away from the victim, or granting an undocumented spouse a divorce from their abusive citizen spouse.
However, certain abusive husbands, for example, attempt to manipulate their spouses by threatening to report their undocumented wives to immigration authorities and to have their wives deported if they report the abuse or seek to obtain a restraining order. Many undocumented wives succumb to these threats due to lack of knowledge of laws enacted to protect them. Under a federal immigration law, however, an undocumented alien who is the victim of domestic violence may pursue legal status in the U.S. by obtaining a green card on the basis of such abuse.
To find out whether someone you know may qualify under the law or to learn more about the options referenced above, please contact our Fort Lauderdale office at 954-524-5297.