Immigration Law

3 posts

Until Violence Do Us Part: Evaluating VAWA’s Bona Fide Marriage Requirement

By Anna Boltyanskiy

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) allows those victims of domestic violence who are married to U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents to “self-petition” for lawful status. To be approved under VAWA, the self-petitioner must prove, among other things, that her marriage was bona fide. This Note examines the practical difficulties that battered immigrants face in producing primary evidence of bona fide marriage and discusses the perverse incentives this requirement creates. Specifically, VAWA petitioners’ abusive spouses often destroy the documentation of bona fide marriage, never include the immigrant spouse’s name on the documents to begin with, or threaten further abuse if the immigrant spouse tries to obtain the documents. Because these issues are only amplified in a short-lived marriage, battered immigrants have perverse incentives to stay with their abusive partners longer, to marry their abusers, and to have children with them. As a possible solution, this Note argues that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services should give greater weight to affidavits as qualitative proof of bona fide marriage, which allows VAWA petitioners to explain any documentary gaps and to tell their own stories.

The Regulatory Leash of the One-Year Refugee Travel Document

By Paulina Sosa

Asylees, refugees, and some Lawful Permanent Residents must obtain a Refugee Travel Document (RTD) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in order to travel abroad. These non-citizens cannot use passports from their home country, as doing so could result in a loss of their asylee or refugee status. RTDs are only valid for one year and must be renewed annually until the non-citizen naturalizes, if their holders plan to travel abroad. Because most countries require that a tourist’s travel document have a minimum remaining validity of anywhere from three months to one year, RTD holders are inhibited from completing their business or personal travel for many months out of the year.

Part I of this Note introduces the problem of the one-year validity period and discusses the relevant terms and concepts pertaining to asylum and refugee classifications. Part II then discusses the history of refugee travel documents before and after the enactment of the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the related 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees before examining how the United States and other countries comply with their obligations under the Protocol. Part III delves further into the processes of applying for, obtaining, and using a refugee travel document. Part IV discusses how refugee travel documents affect two different kinds of rights: the limited right of reentry into the United States and the right to international travel, both of which also vary according to immigration status. Part V argues for an increased validity period of at least two years and outlines how the change could impact asylees, refugees, and lawful permanent residents. Finally, Part VI outlines the potential barriers to implementing the proposed regulatory reform, such as national security policy and political will.

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Immigration Court is Out of Sessions: Restoring Nonregulatory Termination to Immigration Judges Post–Matter of S-O-G- & F-D-B-

By Susanna Booth

In 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions promulgated three Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decisions that sharply curtailed the power of immigration judges (IJs) to manage their own dockets and safeguard the due process rights of immigrant respondents. One such decision, Matter of S-O-G- & F-D-B-, eliminated IJs’ ability to terminate proceedings outside of specific circumstances, removing a traditional tool IJs used to dispense with unnecessary or unconstitutional proceedings.

Yet recent circuit court decisions undergird the conclusion that Matter of S-O-G- & F-D-B-’s reasoning is incorrect. This Note first traces the long history of expanding IJ authority, highlighting IJs’ gradual recognition of a discretionary termination power. After examining the reasoning of S-O-G- & F-D-B-, this Note then argues that, contrary to the Attorney General’s interpretation, IJs do possess the inherent authority to terminate removal proceedings, even outside of circumstances specifically identified by statute. Finally, this Note considers the viability of eventual challenges to S-O-G- & F-D-B- and argues that either executive, legislative, or judicial action is necessary to restore IJs’ power to discretionarily terminate proceedings and protect the rights of immigrant respondents.

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