domestic violence
Image Source:
Growing up in a culture in which the ‘machismo’ image of a father figure is dominant, it could be hard to separate the notion of a “normal family life” from “domestic violence.”

We have heard of stories about domestic violence or might have experienced it ourselves. The stories could be about a married couple in disagreement over the scolding of a daughter for violating her curfew or it could simply be a heated argument with a domestic partner as to whether a trip to the Bahamas is better than visiting family in the Philippines during the summer.

The squabble is probably harmless to the couple, but the raised voices could prompt neighbors to dial 911. We live in the land of “milk and honey” that values harmony and respect in the family and abhors any kind of violence.

When the police knock on the door, we are baffled and ask, “What have we done officer?”

To immigrants, the stakes are high, and the consequences are unexpectedly worse than we can imagine.

Tele-seryes might nonchalantly portray a married couple arguing loudly and forcefully and ending with a slap in the face. To us, this scenario is nothing more than making a point or even an act of endearment in a proper context.

However, the deportation of an alien for what could have been an act of parental concern over a daughter or just being “in charge” as the head of the family is ironic.

On September 30, 1996, the US Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) making conviction for domestic violence a deportable offense.

Having a “green card” will not save the day. If undocumented, legalizing one’s status would be difficult because of the conviction. It is immaterial that the conviction does not order jail time. The conviction is enough to make it a deportable offense.

When one becomes eligible to become a US citizen, that domestic violence record will haunt you. If one applies to renew a green card and the conviction pops up during the fingerprinting test, there is no escape from being recommended for removal proceedings. That is particularly so if the conviction comes squarely within the definition of a deportable alien.

The term “domestic violence” is defined as a crime of violence described in 18 U.S.C. § 16, committed against a spouse or former spouse, by any person with whom the victim “shares a child in common,” or by a person who is “cohabiting with or has cohabited with the person as a spouse …” [INA § 237(a)(2)(E), 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(E)].

Domestic violence is easily deemed as a “crime involving moral turpitude” as it is a “crime of violence,” another ground for deportation.

For a non-immigrant who has a domestic violence conviction and who is about to adjust status in the US, the road will be rocky. Because of a criminal conviction in one’s record, the alien might need to file a waiver based on extreme hardship.

Sadly, when the charge of domestic violence is coupled by a temporary stay-away order and there is a violation of such protective order, even if the individual’s conduct does not carry any act of physical force or violence, it is serious and can place the immigrant in removal proceedings.

This is a country that allows newcomers to assimilate into the culture and lifestyle that have made it one of the top destinations for permanent immigrants in the world today (OECD report). Its system does not tolerate wife-beaters and impulsive, violent individuals.

The need to be careful in dealing with a domestic violence charge cannot be over-emphasized. It is important to consult an immigration attorney immediately when confronted with a domestic-violence issue. Avoid the outright guilty plea and conviction. It could be “nipped it in the bud” if there are circumstances justifying your actions.