When Josefina* came to the Clinic for help, she knew she was a victim of abuse, but she did not understand the full extent of that abuse. Grecia Crane, a Bilingual Paralegal in the Victim Justice Program (VJP), says there were several incidents that Josefina described to her and VJP Staff Attorney Annie Anderson that had never been reported to the police. At the time, Josefina did not even realize they were crimes. In fact, she believed she was at fault.
“[Her abuser] would force himself on her and would tell her that, ‘You’re my girlfriend—this is what you’re supposed to do,’” says Grecia. “She thought it was okay and she blamed it on herself because one incident did occur in front of her daughter.” According to Grecia, Josefina became even more wracked with guilt when her daughter, who was very young and who loved her father, begged her, “Please don’t send Daddy to jail.”
But at the Clinic, finally free from her ex, Grecia and Annie were able to connect Josefina with the organization Families First. Although she was somewhat timid, she agreed to go into counseling. “Once we got her with a counselor, she was able to see the full picture and understand that what happened to her was not okay and that it was not her fault,” Grecia says. “[Her abuser] can’t do whatever he wants.”
Now, with the abuse fully reported, Grecia and Annie have filed for immigration relief in the form of a U-Visa, although it will not be processed for a very long time. “Unfortunately, with a U-Visa, right now we’re looking at about a ten- to thirteen-year wait,” says Grecia. “It is a very long, hard wait.” Additionally, VJP also applied for a work permit for Josefina. This process is much quicker, but will still take from three to five years to process. If it is approved, Josefina will be able to get a Social Security number, to have a job, and to pay taxes.
“My hope for her is that through this all she is able to find healing,” says Grecia. “Not only for her, but for her daughters as well and that she leans closer to God.”
In the meantime, VJP is hoping to receive Deferred Action for Josefina, which would keep her legal status secure until such time that Immigration makes a determination on her U-Visa. Now, Josefina and the Clinic just have to be patient. “Looking at the case, I think she will be approved,” says Grecia. “But it’s all in the discretion of Immigration at this point.”
*Name and certain details have been changed.