Habib is one of those clients that we know has a promising future here. She is smart and motivated. When we call and ask if Habib is available, she politely responds, in impeccable English, “This is she.” She has plans to go to school and then to get a high-quality job, but she must wait until her immigration case is finished.
Habib fell in love and got married in the United States nearly a decade ago after coming here on a visitor’s visa from Ethiopia. However, as we see so often, the husband became abusive and strung her along, promising to eventually apply for her green card, which she was eligible for since she came here lawfully and married a U.S. citizen. He continued the abuse but never applied for her green card. In the meantime, she accrued a year of unlawful status here, meaning that if she were to return to Ethiopia, she would be barred for ten years from returning to the United States. Her predicament was especially difficult because her parents back in Ethiopia had ostracized her for leaving her husband, meaning she could not return to live with them.
Habib felt alone and depressed, and even contemplated suicide. Fortunately, Habib has a sister here, who has taken her in and provided for her. Habib’s sister connected her to Just Neighbors. When we met with Habib and learned about the abuse she suffered from her U.S. citizen husband, we informed her she is eligible to obtain a green card through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Even though the abuse occurred quite some time ago, the evidence of the harm she suffered is substantial, and the case is strong.
Habib is in the final stages of providing to us documents such as a letter of support from her sister and from a counselor and her marriage certificate. We will then file her application, and hope to accompany her to an interview for her green card within a year.
The volunteer attorney at Just Neighbors who has been working with Habib says, “With her drive and intelligence, I envision Habib starting her own business or teaching and researching at a university here. I hope that we can give her the opportunity to realize her full potential.”
In the News
Congress is in the midst of deciding on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which provides tools to courts and law enforcement to combat domestic violence and assist victims like Habib. This past week, the Senate approved passage of the legislation. The House is currently deciding on its version of the bill, which may exclude more controversial provisions such as protection for gay, bisexual, and transgender victims. The House is also considering not increasing the number of temporary U-visas granted to immigrant victims of violent crimes (including domestic violence), although this provision is supported by law enforcement as a means to ensure trust within the immigrant community.
Just Neighbors has assisted hundreds of immigrant victims– some male, most female– through VAWA who have suffered physical or psychological abuse at the hands of their citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse. The law, first passed in 1994, has enabled clients like Habib to live safely and independently, without dependence on or fear of an abuser.
Support Just Neighbors by Just Walking!
Just Neighbors, along with five other member organizations at our Connections for Hope office in Herndon, will host the second annual “Footprints for Hope” fundraiser on Saturday, May 19th at 9:00am. In addition to the 3 mile/1 mile walk that we had last year, there will also be an officially timed 5k Run. All are invited to walk and raise funds for Just Neighbors. Afterwards, learn about the work we do at Connections for Hope while enjoying music, awards, raffles, Zumba, and other family activities. For every $50 you raise for Just Neighbors, you will be entered into a drawing to win an Apple iPAD! Pre-registration for the walk is $30 for adults and $15 for kids and $40/$20 the day of the walk. Pre-registration for the 5k Run is $40 for adults and $30 for kids and $50/$35 the day of the walk. For more information and to fundraise for Just Neighbors, click here.
This week we say good-bye to both Jeincy Paniagua (left) and Claudia Sanchez. Both women have enabled Just Neighbors to do more than ever this past year to meet the varied needs of our clients. Jeincy, our George Mason Social Work Intern, helped identify client needs and connect them with various service providers. Claudia, a counselor from The Women’s Center, counseled with clients as they dealt with issues of abuse, trauma, and other stresses. We look forward to welcoming our next GMU Social Work Intern in the fall and hopefully bringing on board another counselor from The Women’s Center soon.
Volunteer of the Month
Becca Warner (with daughter Julianna) has been a fantastic intern for us this spring from the University of Illinois. Becca, a senior who is majoring in Spanish, has conducted nearly one hundred phone intakes, interpreted for many client meetings, presented at community fairs, and assisted in a wide range of office work. We are grateful that she will continue to volunteer with us on Thursdays during the summer even though her formal internship has concluded. Thank you Becca!