This story is a compilation from many of the VAWA cases I’ve worked on in the last four years. All names have been changed, but the content couldn’t be more true.
Their’s was a love story. A drama.
David and Veronica met through close friends. He brought flowers to their first date. She smiled brightly each time he opened the door. He complimented her dress.
For their third date, Veronica made him dinner. Ignoring how hopelessly overcooked the meat was, David had three helpings. He told her how wonderful it was to have someone cook for him.
A month later, he met her family. He wore a tie and said all the right things. He understood that with her Mexican roots, family was everything.
When Veronica met David’s family, things went less smoothly. David was very close to his mother, and his mother wasn’t partial towards other cultures. She said things like “your people” and “illegals.” But David assured her it went well.
A week later on Valentine’s Day, Veronica came home from work to find her bedroom full of rose petals and balloons. In the center of her bed was a card. It was a love note. David even included some of the Spanish she had taught him, starting it with the words “Mi amor…”
A month later, they decided to move in together. Money was tight, but paying only one rent would help. Veronica was thrilled to make a home with David. She worked tirelessly arranging the furniture and decorating the walls. David couldn’t stop telling her what a good job she did, or how excited he was to wake up with her each morning.
One morning, Veronica woke up to David on his knees next to the bed. He told her he loved her and that he wanted nothing more than to make a life with her. Veronica cried as he placed a small ring on her hand.
The wedding was small, with only their families. David’s mom didn’t attend.
Only three weeks after the wedding Veronica found out she was pregnant. With financials still tight, Veronica was frightened to tell David. But he held her and said they would make it work.
Because Veronica didn’t have a driver’s license, she relied on David or friends to drive her to and from work. One day, he was late picking her up from work. She tried to call him, but he didn’t pick up. Veronica ended up walking home, a walk that took her over 2 hours. When she arrived home in tears of frustration, she found David in front of the TV. He blamed her for not reminding him, and walked out of the room.
A couple weeks into the pregnancy, Veronica began to feel ill. Her doctor said it was normal morning sickness that came with pregnancy, but twice she had to miss work because of the nausea. The next time she went in, her boss said there was no work left for her. David said it was just as well, he preferred her at home.
Veronica knew though that with the baby coming their financials would be even more strained. She asked David about petitioning for her immigration status. If she had proper work authorization, she said, she would be able to find a job easier and even get paid better.
For the first time, David yelled.
He asked her over and over: why did she want to work, why she wanted to be outside of their home, and why she thought he couldn’t support them on his own. He punched the wall. He accused her of wanting to cheat, and of already not being a good mother to their unborn child. Veronica didn’t bring it up again.
The next day, David came home from work with flowers. Just like the flowers from their first date. He told her how excited he was to meet his son.
Veronica thought things would get better after she had the baby.
One day though, a month after giving birth, she came home from grocery shopping to find David home early from work. He asked her where she had been and then why she hadn’t told him where she was going. When Veronica hesitated before responding David pulled her by her hair towards him, put his mouth next to her ear, and screamed louder. Veronica sobbed in pain. He told her that she was to stay at home, and before leaving or spending money, she needed to ask him.
When he released her, Veronica went, shaking, to care for their son.
The next day Veronica woke up and found that her son was not in his crib. She immediately confronted David. He told her that his mother hand taken their son for the day. Veronica broke. She screamed. She told David he was not treating her correctly and that she would call the police if he did not return their child to her.
David told her that if she did, he would tell the police she was undocumented. He told her that the police were on his side. She would get deported and he would get to stay in the U.S., with their son.
Veronica could only scream back, and as she did David kicked her in the stomach. As she fell, he kicked her once more in the stomach. Veronica laid in that spot for hours, sobbing and puking, until she couldn’t feel anything.
It seems mad, but this is not an uncommon story. The Violence Against Women Act was created, in part, to help women like this. Women who are entitled to an immigration benefit, but who can’t petition without the participation of their spouse. Women married to abusers who use their immigration status as a source of power in the cycle of abuse.
H.R. 4970 is not VAWA, it will not give women like Veronica the help they need.
Please contact your representative and advocate for a real and proper reauthorization of this important legislation.