Boston University International Law Journal
Undocumented domestic violence victims face many challenges in proving they will suffer extreme hardship if deported. Heralded as the most significant legislation to aid victims of domestic violence, the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (“VAWA”) recognized two main ideas. First, domestic violence is a serious national problem in the United States. Second, the undocumented immigration status of victims and their fear of deportation exacerbates domestic abuse. VAWA commands that immigration laws remedy, rather than perpetuate, violence in families of citizens and lawful permanent residents. However, requiring victims of domestic violence to prove they will suffer extreme hardship if deported is an entirely inappropriate eligibility standard for this class of immigrants. “Extreme hardship” is prone to interpretations which are unrelated to the problems and needs of domestic violence victims.
In cases of battered immigrants, determinations must be based on the factors tied to domestic violence, including the nature and extent of abuse suffered by the victim and the victim’s need for the support of the U.S. social and legal systems. The extreme hardship standard serves no reasonable immigration-related purpose with regard to battered immigrants. Further, it is incompatible with an immigration policy favoring foreign nationals who meet the eligibility requirements to immigrate, and does not support a policy to end domestic violence. Ultimately, Congress failed in its responsibility to serve the interests of battered and abused immigrants by including the requirement of extreme hardship in order to attain legal status.
Lee J. Teran, Barriers to Protection at Home and Abroad: Mexican Victims of Domestic Violence and the Violence Against Women Act, 17 B.U. Int'l L.J. 1 (1999).