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Help prevent deportation of a Missoula domestic violence victim!

VAWA Smaller imageTell DOJ and DHS that the victim of violent assault shouldn’t be deported based on a “tip” from the abuser!

By Shahid Haque-Hausrath, President and Immigration Attorney

My client, Kathleen Benitez-Field, has been living in the U.S. for over 18 years, is facing deportation and separation from her four U.S. citizen children. Working together with the convicted abuser who strangled my client in public and pled guilty to it, the U.S. Department of Justice and Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigated and ultimately arrested my client, not the perpetrator of the crime. Within a span of months, my client went from being the victim of assault, to being charged criminally for “possession or use” of a fake green card, taken into custody for 90 days, having her children taken away from her, and being ordered deported by ICE without judicial oversight. This happened in late 2010. I’ve been fighting ever since to keep her here.

The evidence shows that ICE colluded with the abusive ex-spouse throughout their investigation. They relied on him for the initial “tip”, met with him on multiple occasions afterwards, used him as the “source” for purposes of obtaining a warrant for her arrest, and even advised him ahead of time on the day that they would be arresting my client, so he could assume custody of the children beforehand.

The abusive ex-spouse’s intended purpose in reporting my client was to ensure her removal, so she was unable to pursue further criminal action against him, and so he could assume custody of their children by default. DHS not only ignored the fact that they were playing right into the hands of an abuser’s goals, but also refused to change course once this was directly pointed out. DHS has now given the violent ex-spouse exactly what he wanted — insulation from criminal charges for his misconduct.

The Department of Homeland Security admits that my client was the victim of a long term pattern of violence. Abused spouses of U.S. citizens can apply for relief under the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”). They also qualify for “U visas” for cooperating with law enforcement in prosecuting a crime. We have applied for both. So far, DHS has stated its intention to deny both forms of relief. The reason? They have decided to deny her relief as a victim of crime based on conduct that happened because she was a victim of crime.

DHS would deny a U visa or relief under VAWA to the female victim of assault just because she “possessed or used” a false alien registration card — the card being necessary only because her abusive ex-spouse refused to petition for her immigration status despite being married for over five years. Meanwhile, he refused to hold down a job and required her to be the primary provider for their young children.

All of this is directly contrary to the federal government’s stated goals and priorities. The U visa is intended to allow a victim to cooperate with law enforcement in pursuing justice. Congress intended to empower undocumented victims of crime to cooperate with law enforcement, but DHS wrongly prioritized criminal charges against the victim of assault over pursuit of the abuser himself.

Further, DHS allowed an abusive spouse to orchestrate matters so that the victim was no longer able to obtain a conviction against him. VAWA regulations contemplate the fact that an abusive spouse may attempt to have a non-citizen spouse deported, and prohibits ICE from doing precisely what it did in this instance — cooperate with the abuser and deport the victim.

We must send a message to DHS that they got their priorities wrong, and that nothing is to be served by deporting this victim of assault, separating her form her children, and placing them into the custody of the abuser.

Please sign this petition and contact the officials in DHS who can put a stop to this! You should reference Case No. EAC-14-027-50697.

  • ICE Contact: Todd McWhorter, Salt Lake City Field Office Director, (801) 313-4260
  • USCIS Contact: Laura B. Zuchowski, Acting Center Director, Click to e-mail


More information:

Article in the Missoula Current newspaper.

Article in the Missoula Independent Newspaper

Article from the Border Crossing Law Firm, P.C. Website