Graciela Beines is a survivor.
She arrived in the United States from Argentina ten years ago. She was undocumented, unmarried, had no children in the U.S. and barely spoke English. In 2002, Beines, 50, was victim of brutal domestic violence.
After enduring two years with her abuser, she helped put him in jail. She moved to a Violence Intervention Program shelter on March 12, 2002. In her 9 months there, lawyers, social workers and counselors helped re-route her life. Beines learned she was eligible for a U Visa, a non-immigrant visa for crime victims willing to cooperate with the police.
“Most of our clients don’t know that this benefit actually exists,” said Terry Lawson, a lawyer at Legal Services NYC-Bronx.
The government grants U Visas to 10,000 people annually, said Marisol Arriaga, a lawyer who specializes in domestic violence cases of undocumented immigrants. The visa is valid for four years.
Beines wants to return to Argentina to visit her family, but she’s waiting for her American residence, scheduled to arrive within months. After three years, U Visa recipients may apply for a permanent residence, Arriaga said. It’s one of the few non-immigrant visas that allows this.
She now works as a real estate agent and lives with her two cats in New York City. The abuse left her with anxiety and phobias, but she remains positive. Beines tells her story to help other undocumented women in this country who may be going through what she did.
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