Criminal Law

Crim. Law Journal Winter 2020, Vol. 20, Issue 1

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE LAWS AND THE INA: HOW DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PERPETRATORS ATTAIN IMMIGRATION BENEFITS

By George T. Emmons*

Every 24 minutes, someone is the victim of domestic violence.1 Even more shocking is that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical abuse by an intimate partner in their lifetime.2 And, more than 4,000 women each year are killed by their partners.3 Domestic violence also takes tolls on children. Often, 30% to 60% of children in violent households are also the victims of domestic violence and 1 in 4 have witnessed physical violence of their mother, father and their intimate partners.4

Domestic violence is a serious problem. Domestic violence perpetrators inflict significant harm on their partners and are more likely than other violent offenders to be re-arrested for violent offenses against the original victim.5 There are several reasons for this high level of recidivism. According to a 2004 Canadian study analyzing recidivism in domestic violence arrests, substance abuse and financial and economic instability were some of the factors that led to higher recidivism rates amongst domestic violence perpetrators.6 Also, a study conducted in Federal Probation found that 41% of domestic violence perpetrators that were assigned to domestic violence counseling and probation reoffended before the end of their 24 month probation term.7 This study also found that domestic violence counseling has had limited success in deterring domestic batterers.8

However, despite the harm domestic violence perpetrators inflict on our society, our laws do not hold domestic violence perpetrators accountable for their actions. Specifically, in the immigration context, many who have been convicted of California Penal Code domestic violence crimes are not removable from the United States and some are allowed to garner significant immigration benefits.9

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