Want to Get Legalized Because Your Citizen Kids Abused You? Lots of Luck!

By David North on June 30, 2014

A minority of illegal aliens can get legalized under current laws — it's covered by the term "adjustment of status". There are a number of different ways to do this, but the rarest and most challenging path is to try to convince USCIS that your U.S. citizen children have abused you.

The Violence Against Women Act says that "an alien battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by a United States citizen daughter or son" may apply for a green card.

I wrote about these abusees as a tiny, tiny slice of the incoming millions of immigrants, but what I did not know until last week was how many aliens have tried this route, and have been cut off at the pass by USCIS adjudicators; and how routinely these denials had been upheld by the Administrative Appeals Office.

AAO is, as the name suggests, an in-house appeals unit within USCIS. Its nameless judges do not hear cases in a courtroom like immigration judges, they work totally from documents in front of them.

In the last two fiscal years (2012-2013) there have been two to four new immigrants in this category and 18-19 adjustees for a total of 20 to 23, according to the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics. (The fuzziness relates to the DHS use of the letter "D" to indicate one or two people in a given category; apparently out of some privacy concern.) Contrast those numbers with 180 of the presumably far more numerous petition denials by USCIS that were appealed to AAO and were decided in those two years.

Apparently the word spread in some community of illegal aliens that if you alleged that your U.S. citizen children had abused you, you could get legal status, so hundreds of aliens filed petitions making that claim. The appeals that reached AAO were largely the work of the aliens themselves, few cases were handled by lawyers, and their quality — I sense from the decisions — must have been of a low order.

I looked at a sample of 25 percent of the decisions; 30 in the first year and 15 in the second, for a total of 45 out of the 180. In every single case, the initial staff decision was supported by the AAO. In other AAO categories, there are at least some remands to the staff, or reversals of staff decisions. There were none in any of the sampled cases.

Most of the cases were turned down at appeal for one of three reasons: the applicant did not provide sufficient proof to win the day, the appeal was filed late, or the child in question was under the age of 21. In several cases, the AAO was not convinced that the child even lived with the parent.

The one case published in 2014 was rejected because the abusing child was two years old. For a text of that decision, fairly typical of the set, see here.

Since AAO heavily redacts its decisions out of a misguided sense of privacy, one cannot tell anything about the geographical source of these applications, or what nationalities were involved. (I did notice in one case that AAO's black pen had slipped, and there was a reference to Jamaica.)

That many decisions were published in 2012 and 2013, and there has been only one to date in 2014 suggests either that AAO is sitting on a bunch of files, or, more likely, that the rejections have gotten back to whatever migrant community was involved, and fewer bad applications are being filed.

Meanwhile, AAO has been acting appropriately.