In addition to the physical abuse, Lola’s abuser frequently threatened her with “sending immigration after her” and refused to file a marriage-based petition to get her legal status because he “knew she would leave” if he did. This is all too common of a tactic. A friend of mine, who is an immigration lawyer at ILAP, and who helped me think through this case, points out that it seems abusers have some sort of handbook that they use to keep people vulnerable. I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard this same pattern of threats in these cases.

After we successfully obtained a two-year PFA for her, I assisted her with a divorce from her abuser, and then filed a VAWA self-petition. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows immigrants who are victims of domestic violence to petition for legal status in the United States without relying on an abusive partner to sponsor them. The petition process is intensive and document-heavy, and immigration looks for any inconsistency as a reason for denial. After much work, we filed her petition in early 2018.

After the PFA was obtained and the VAWA petition was filed, Lola achieved some level of normalcy. Her innate talents were recognized at the hotel where she works and she was made a supervisor of the housekeeping staff. In addition to her incredible hard work, she is a super mom – her son is the type of kid any of us would be proud, and lucky, to have as a child.

Through all of these successes, however, her lack of status generated fear and anxiety. In but one example, she turned 27 in August and called me to ask if she’d be safe travelling out of state to celebrate her birthday with a friend.

Now, for Lola, those fears are no more. We recently received confirmation that her VAWA self-petition was granted and she is eligible for a green card. When I called to share the news, she broke down in tears of relief.