New opinion: Third Circuit applies VAWA to block woman’s deportation

Da Silva v. A.G.—immigration—reversal—Roth

A woman from Brazil came to the U.S. in 1994, overstayed her visa, and later married an American man. Her husband was physically and emotionally abusive, refused to file for legal status “as a method to control her,” and cheated on her repeatedly. When she discovered one of his affairs, she confronted the woman and punched her twice in the nose. For this, she was prosecuted for assault in federal court and sentenced to 18 months in prison, and then the government began proceedings to deport her.

Under the Violence Against Women Act, petitioners can seek cancellation of removal under certain circumstances after an act or conviction “connected to” the petitioner’s abuse. The Board of Immigration Appeals reasoned (if that’s the word) that the nose-punching was not connected to the woman’s abuse because her abuser didn’t ask or force her to do it.

Today, the Third Circuit vacated and remanded, holding that the woman’s crime met VAWA’s “connected to” test because it had a causal or logical relationship to the abuse she suffered. The court also rejected the government’s request that the court instead remand to the BIA to give it a do-over on interpreting the connected-to standard. The opinion is a model of readable, unflashy judicial style.

Joining Roth were McKee and Rendell. Arguing counsel were Thomas Griffin of Surin & Griffin for the woman and Scott Stewart of the DOJ for the government.