AIDS Legal Services Project:
Turning Domestic Violence into a Path to Legal Immigration Status
Undocumented Immigrants are particularly vulnerable to abuse
Two immigrants living with HIV. Two survivors of extremely abusive relationships. Now, after many years living in the United States, both have legal status and work permits thanks to the pro bono services of the CFJ AIDS Legal Services Project.
Guadalupe, 49, is a transgender woman born in Mexico. Seeking greater freedom and acceptance, she came to the US in 1989. But living in the US as an undocumented trans woman was not an easy path either. Struggling to support herself, for many years Guadalupe stayed in an abusive relationship. Eventually picked up by ICE in 2011, she was in immigration detention in the Santa Ana jail when she reached out to the ALSP for help. Guadalupe was well past the statutory deadline to file for asylum, so over the course of eight years, teams of attorneys at O’Melveny & Myers prepared numerous immigration applications to try and get Guadalupe out of detention and into legal status. After many delays, strategy discussions and hearings, volunteer attorneys successfully argued for Withholding of Removal. Guadalupe is finally able to get a work permit and can now legally stay in the US.
Steve, 62, was born in Canada and came to the US with his mother in 1974. His father was a US citizen, but he wasn’t on Steve’s birth certificate and his mother refused to recognize him as Steve’s birth parent. This left Steve, an artist and carpenter, undocumented for many, many years. 45 years to be exact. Living as an out gay man, in his mid-30’s, Steve tested positive for HIV in 1989. Struggling to support himself as a carpenter, ten years later, he became financially dependent on his partner. Abusive throughout their 18-month relationship, Steve’s boyfriend flew into a rage one night when locked out of the house. He shattered a sliding glass door, chased Steve around the house, tearing at his clothes and choking Steve when he caught him. Fearing for his life, Steve fled to a neighbor’s and they called 911. Fortunately, the investigating officer took extensive field notes and photos and followed up with interviews. Thus, the police report helped a great deal, when, 16 years later, a volunteer attorney of the ALSP sought certification from the Police Department in order to file a U visa application for Steve. It took another four and a half years to adjudicate the application. Just weeks ago, the U visa was finally approved and Steve at last is in the United States lawfully and has a work permit.