Pro Bono Win: Hollingsworth LLP successfully represents domestic abuse victim in immigration proceedings.

For the last 14 months, Firm attorneys James Sullivan and Michael Johnson have assisted a pro bono client from Nigeria with petitioning for immigration relief under the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”).  On Thursday, January 28, 2016, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approved her immigration petition.

VAWA contains a provision to protect domestic abuse victims whose immigration status otherwise would require them to remain with their abusive U.S. citizen or LPR spouses while pursuing legal residency status.  To flee the situation and remain eligible to pursue a green card, the VAWA petitioner must make several showings through adequate and credible evidence, including (1) that the marriage was bona fide and not for purposes of immigration, (2) that the spouses lived together for a period during the marriage, (3) that the abusive spouse is a U.S. citizen or LPR, (4) that the abuse rose to the level of battery or extreme cruelty, and (5) that the abused spouse is a person of good moral character.

During the representation, Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Johnson developed a record that included declarations from the client, a treating physician, a minister, friends, a relative, and two social workers.  As further evidence, they collected medical records, the marriage license, immigration files, a criminal background check, and police clearance letters from locations where the client has resided.  Without a strong record of support, this client may have faced deportation and potential separation from her son (a U.S. citizen).

During this 14 month period, Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Johnson also worked to arrange continued residence for the client and her son in a shelter while they developed the record and the immigration service considered her petition.  Until her petition was approved, she remained ineligible to apply to work.  Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Johnson plan to assist the client with her application for a work permit and her green card application.  Although the road is not complete, the most difficult part should soon be behind this woman and her son.  She looks forward to being able to begin working and becoming able to participate more fully within her son’s public school.  Having achieved a six-year degree in veterinarian medicine prior to her arrival in the U.S., her prospects for becoming a self-sufficient, contributing citizen should be good.

Hollingsworth LLP is committed to contributing to the improvement and well-being of our community by performing pro bono legal and charitable services.  Our attorneys and staff provide volunteer legal services and support to low-income and underrepresented members of our community on a wide range of issues, including the protection of rights and interests of the elderly, children, veterans, immigrants, and the homeless.