Domestic violence victim gets visa for crime victims, then green card
“After 16 years, I can finally visit my parents in Mexico thanks to the effort of Mr. Elliott Ozment and his team.”
Historically, immigrant victims of crime were reluctant to come forward to prosecute their attackers. After extensive lobbying on the problem of unreported crime in immigrant communities, Congress passed legislation allowing for the U visa. Only 10,000 U visas are issued each year to immigrant victims of qualifying crimes.
After her husband brutally whipped her in front of her son, Ozment Law, PLC client Maria Murillo cooperated with the police in rural Oklahoma, where she lived, and helped prosecutors bring her attacker to justice.
Then, Ms. Murillo called Ozment Law, PLC. Ms. Murillo hired us to petition the government for a U visa. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approved Ozment Law, PLC’s request for Ms. Murillo, and Ms. Murillo was able to get a work card and all the benefits that come with having legal status in the United States.
But Ms. Murillo was not completely satisfied until she could visit her family still living in Mexico. Ms. Murillo also wanted the security that comes from being a lawful permanent resident in the United States, as she knew she wanted the United States to be her home. Again with Ozment Law, PLC’s assistance, Ms. Murillo asked the government to adjust her status to lawful permanent resident. Like many of Ozment Law, PLC’s adjustment of status clients, the case manager working on Ms. Murillo’s case asked her to bring in specific documents to help her chances. Ozment Law, PLC assisted Ms. Murillo in gathering compelling supporting exhibits and completed the required forms for her, all consisting of hundreds of pages.
In February 2015, Mr. Ozment had the privilege of presenting Ms. Murillo with her permanent residency-or “green”-card. She is thrilled about taking her children to visit family in Mexico and share more about their Mexican-American heritage. “I’ll be grateful forever,” Ms. Murillo said.
Ozment Law, PLC criminal client charged with aggravated assault earns “green card”
Recently, a client of Ozment Law, PLC’s criminal attorney obtained his “green card,” meaning his petition for permanent legal residency was approved. Permanent, legal residency in the United States was far from our client’s mind when he was arrested and charged with domestic aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Convictions for domestic assault can lead to swift deportation for immigrants, and our client was charged with the felony “version” of assault. He was accused of using a deadly weapon in the course of the alleged assault. If found guilty of such a crime, immigration likely would have charged our client as an “aggravated felon.” Immigrants found to be “aggravated felons” are not eligible for an immigration bond and are almost always deported. But Ms. Herzfeld prevailed in our client’s case and, working closely with Ozment Law, PLC’s immigration attorneys, successfully litigated the case to preserve the client’s possible pathway to citizenship.
Green card holders can lawfully live and work in the United States, and as long as they follow the immigration and criminal laws, they may be eligible to become U.S. citizens.
Federal court orders Immigration to permit deported Ozment Law, PLC client to reenter United States
Over Ozment Law, PLC founder and managing attorney Elliott Ozment’s strenuous objections, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported a Guatemalan-born immigrant in 2010. Our client, the immigrant, won a post-order motion to reconsider certain aspects of the deportation order, resulting in his removal order being vacated.
However, Ozment Law, PLC’s client was unable to reenter the United States to continue pursuing his immigration case, even though his reopened case was set for a hearing in the Memphis Immigration Court. An immigration judge asked ICE to assist in returning our client to the United States so he could participate in his case, but ICE refused. The government’s behavior caused the client’s immigration case to hang in permanent limbo, even as his very ill U.S. citizen son languished without his father present.
But government push-back only forces Ozment Law, PLC’s attorneys to work harder. Exposing ICE’s conduct as “part of a larger national failure by the federal government,” the federal government settled with our client.
As part of the settlement, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee ordered the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to allow our client to enter the United States pursuant to Significant Public Benefit Parole.
Immigrant shackled to bed while giving birth settles case for $200,000, obtains U visa
In July 2008, undocumented immigrant and expectant mother Juana Villegas was arrested during a stop for minor a traffic violation and taken to jail, where she was determined to be an immigrant by the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office. Two days into Ms. Villegas’s detention, her water broke, and she went into labor. The Sheriff’s Office deputies in Nashville placed Ms. Villegas on a gurney with her legs shackled together and her wrists handcuffed together. She remained shackled and cuffed during her labor and delivery.
At the hospital, Ms. Villegas’s medical staff requested the removal of her handcuffs, but Metro removed them for only a few seconds to permit her to put on a hospital gown. She remained shackled and cuffed much of the night of the delivery of her child. The Sheriff’s Office was aware of the medical staff’s orders to remove the restraints but ignored the request. Ms. Villegas remained chained to her bed for the duration of her two-day post-partum recovery, including while she slept, held her newborn son, and nursed him.
Nashville’s treatment of Ms. Villegas turned what should have been a joyous occasion into a nightmare, and unfortunately, their cruel treatment of Ms. Villegas continued after she was discharged from the hospital. The hospital provided Ms. Villegas with a breast pump because she was being separated from her newborn child, but metro refused to allow Ms. Villegas to take the breast pump to the jail, despite pleas from the medical staff. Back at the jail and unable to express her milk without the breast pump, her breasts became engorged, and Ms. Villegas developed mastitis. The preventable illness caused her breasts to become infected and caused excruciating pain. Left with no help by Metropolitan Nashville, Ms. Villegas resorted to asking another inmate to try futilely to express her milk.
Ozment Law, PLC, together with the Nashville law firm Sherrard & Roe, sued to vindicate Ms. Villegas’s constitutional rights. Ms. Villegas’s attorneys obtained a $200,000 jury verdict in her favor. The court found that the jail officers showed “deliberate indifference” to Ms. Villegas’s civil rights. The defendants appealed, and in October 2013, the Metro Nashville government settled the case for $490,000.
As a result of the violations that Ms. Villegas suffered, then-Chief Judge William J. Haynes, Jr., certified that Ms. Villegas was able to show that she was potentially the victim qualifying criminal behavior at the hands of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office. See Villegas v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville, 907 F. Supp. 2d 907 (M.D. Tenn. 2012) (granting Ms. Villegas’s motion for judicial U-visa certification). As Mr. Ozment told The New York Times, “Whether this lady was documented or undocumented should not affect how she was treated in her late pregnant condition and as she was going through labor and bonding with her new baby.”
Ms. Villegas, with Ozment Law, PLC’s help, went from undocumented, pregnant immigrant to the cover story of the Nashville Scene. In October 2014, Ms. Villegas was given a U visa, which is a nonimmigrant visa reserved for victims of certain crimes who help the government investigate or prosecute crime and who suffered substantial physical or physical abuse.
With her U visa (and one for her husband, too), Ms. Villegas may lawfully reside and work in the United States for four years, at which time she may renew her visa and eventually apply for U.S. citizenship
Read more about Ms. Villegas’s case:
• New York Times: Immigrant, Pregnant, is Jailed Under Pact
• New York Times: Settlement for a Shackled Pregnant Woman
• Nashville Scene (cover story): Here Without Fear: Juana Villegas now has legal standing to live in the U.S. Other new mothers may not be so lucky