Arranged Marriage: Hope, Despair, and Now Hope Again

Alina comes from a culture where arranged marriages are common, and her family had arranged such a marriage for her.  She was excited to come to the United States, get married and start a new life with her husband and his family.

She met her husband for the first time on their wedding day.  Unbeknownst to her family, Alina learned that her husband had severe developmental delays and that his family had brought her to be more of a caregiver and a servant in their home rather than a wife.  Her in-laws soon became abusive, both physically and mentally.  They beat her regularly, isolated her in their home, provided her with minimal food, and required her to perform numerous household chores.  Soon her husband began to abuse her as well.

Her husband and his family threatened that she couldn’t leave the abusive situation because they had obtained a conditional green card for her on the basis of the marriage and that they would report her to immigration if she left.  However, after asking extended family members for help, she gathered her courage and she called the police who escorted her out of the home of her husband and in-laws.

It was not easy, as she did not have much of a support system in the US and was unsure of how to navigate various systems.  For a while, she went from one place to another, staying a couple of weeks in each home.

The police had referred Alina to Cornerstones, a social services organization, which helped her get a temporary protective order to keep her safe.  Cornerstones referred Alina to Just Neighbors for legal help, so she could normalize her immigration status and petition for herself as the abused spouse of a U.S. Citizen under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Program.

It took over a year, but with Just Neighbor’s help, Alina got her green card.  She found a job as a cashier, and she was able to rent a room on her own.  She proudly reports that she now owns a car.

Alina is currently studying for her GED, and with information that Just Neighbors gave her, she has identified schools and classes for the skills that she’ll need to get the administrative office job that she wants.

What’s Next:  Citizenship!  With Just Neighbors’ help, Alina has applied to be a citizen of the United States and is awaiting her citizenship interview.

#JustNeighborsSuccessStories

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The mission of Just Neighbors is to provide immigration legal services to low-income immigrants and refugees in Virginia, especially those who are most vulnerable. We also seek to foster enriching experiences that enhance awareness and mutual understanding among our clients, volunteers, staff and community.

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