Fight for life replaces fight for green card


HAYWARD — Maria Rivas has faced her share of barriers in life, but none like this.

A single mother with two sons, Rivas was a victim of domestic
violence for many years at the hands of her husband, a permanent
resident who petitioned for her legal status in 1998. She says he often
used her immigration status as a tool of control, forcing her to remain
in the relationship and threatening to withdraw her papers. He has
since disappeared.

The Violence Against Women Act, passed by Congress in 1994,
allowed the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to expedite
Rivas’s application this year for her green card.

That hurdle was barely cleared when tragedy struck: Rivas
recently was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and her doctors toldher
she had only four months to live. Now she is trying to travel back to
her hometown — Culiacan, Mexico — to have closure with her family
before she dies. But she has no money to pay for the trip, because her
cancer has prevented her from working.

“Here I am fighting to live,” she said, anxiously contemplating her fate. “But I wish God would give me more time to live.”

Domestic violence occurs in nearly half of the nation’s homes. Each year, about 3 million to 4 million people are battered.

Rivas’ struggle is an example of how abuse traps immigrants
into a cycle of fear and submission because of the threat of

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