ILCM congratulates pro bono co-counsel Katherine Barrett Wiik of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, L.L.P., and Bruce Nestor for a hard-fought victory in the case In Re: A-L-M-. We also thank the amici curiae team: the National Network to End Violence Against Immigrant Women, Legal Momentum, The Family Violence Prevention Fund, and ASISTA Immigration Assistance Project.
This case, on remand from the Eighth Circuit to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), presented important questions about immigration relief under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Certain immigrant women may avoid deportation on humanitarian grounds if they can prove that their child was "battered or subjected to extreme cruelty" by the child's father, and "extreme cruelty" can include psychological abuse alone. Meanwhile, VAWA extends immigration relief to certain women who were battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by their husbands directly, but it does not cover women abused by men to whom they are not legally married. But what about an unmarried woman who lives with the father of her child, where the father physically abuses the woman in the presence of their child, but does not physically abuse the child? Does the father's pattern of physically abusing the mother in the child's presence amount to "extreme cruelty" to the child and in turn qualify the mother for VAWA protection by virtue of her child's potential psychological harm? Further, what happens if the child later dies? Does the mother lose her eligibility for relief?
Our client, a citizen of Guatemala, suffered domestic abuse at the hands of the father of her U.S. citizen daughter, while in the presence of the daughter. The father even abused our client in the presence of their daughter when the child was terminally ill with cancer. With <<In re: A-L-M->>, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) clarified that the daughter's subsequent death could not terminate our client's eligibility for VAWA relief, and that the father could indeed perpetrate "extreme cruelty" upon his daughter by abusing our client in the child's presence, regardless of whether the child suffered any actual harm (the threat of psychological harm is sufficient) and regardless of whether the father ever intended to harm the child.
ILCM and Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, L.L.P., joined by amici curiae, will ask the BIA to publish its decision as a national precedent.