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Are you affected by AWA Title IV because your partner, fiancé, or spouse is on the registry? Let us know your experience

[ACSOL]

Congress passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (AWA) and President Bush signed the AWA into law on July 27, 2006. The declared purpose of the AWA was “to protect children from sexual exploitation and violent crime, to prevent child abuse and child pornography, to promote Internet safety, and to honor the memory of Adam Walsh and other child crime victims.”

Since it affects all registrants, the focus is mainly on Title I of AWA, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). However, there is a lesser-known part of AWA that made revisions to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Title IV. It states that certain U.S. citizens with a “specified offense against a minor” are ineligible to file family-based visa petitions for family members, unless the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finds, in his or her “sole and unreviewable discretion,” and that the petitioner presents beyond any reasonable doubt “no risk” to the proposed beneficiary.

Are you affected by AWA Title IV because your partner, fiancé, or spouse is on the registry? Let us know your experience.

This blog is for the spouses and loved ones of registrants who cannot obtain legal status as a family member, due to Title IV of AWA. Please share your actual experiences with Title IV. In order to maximize the value to others, feel free to include as many details as you feel comfortable. We are in the process of collecting as many stories as possible with the goal of educating those in power of making a decision in your case, as well as educating the general public about the pain and suffering this law is causing to people who are being punished for loving and standing by a registrant.

REMINDER: this section is for documenting ACTUAL EXPERIENCES with Title IV of the AWA ONLY. All other comments should be made in other appropriate postings. Thank you for your cooperation. 

 

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There is a web site devoted to this issue. https://fightawa.org/
Fightawa.org contains many posts and comments from the people directly effected by title IV of the Adam Walsh Act. There are also collections of documents obtained via FOIA requests.
From many thousands of petitions filed, less than a small handful (less than 5) could be found that had been allowed a visa. I fought for more than 6 years to prove “no risk” and had substantial proof of “very low risk” “indistinguishable from the general public”. but still had no success because it is impossible to prove you are “no risk” unless you are dead. Hopefully the Biden administration will take a new look at this issue of severe and inhuman injustice.

Hi Chuck. Thanks for the referral to FightAWA.org
This site will be updated soon and provide a resource for those of us who are affected by Title IV. In the meantime, I want to share my compassion with your situation, as I’m going through the same problem. USCIS does not seem to take into consideration when someone got a Certificate of Rehabilitation and was removed from the registry. They also don’t seem to take into consideration that someone has been able to fundamentally change his life and is now providing a very important service towards public safety by treating people who are suffering from an addiction that may get them on the registry very quickly. USCIS treats everyone as they pose a risk to the beneficiary. I have a hunch that in many cases they “know” that what they’re doing is B.S., but they won’t risk their positions by making a decision that would grant a beneficiary the status of legal alien.
My hope is that with the new administration coming in there will be people put in positions of decision making, who will be more open and compassionate to our cause. I agree with your sentiment as to what does it take to convince USCIS that we’re no risk to our spouses. Allan Lolly has some promising thoughts on the the topic of “risk”, which may challenge USCIS’s take on this issue. Let’ stay put. Any new info in this will be posted on the FightAWA.org site.
In the meantime, let’s organize and build a momentum to stop this insanity.

My husband and I got married in June of 2016 and I received my conditional green card. I had to wait two years to prove that the marriage was bona fide and real and that I wasn’t married just to gain American status. In 2018 I received a letter advising me that I had to wait another year before I could go back to USCIS and apply for my 10 year permanent resident green card. It was during this year that my husband was charged with downloading cp. We both decided that because i had no family and couldn’t get around on my own that i would come back to Australia, but before I left the U.S to came back home I phoned USCIS and my immigration attorney and asked them if there was anything that I could do to be able to stay out of country for a length of time and still retain my permanent residence status. I was advised that 6 months was the maximum time that I could be out of the country. Anyway to cut a long story short before i left the U.S i had already paid almost $700 us dollars for my 10 year green card and biometrics and was told that I would be called within the year due to their backlog of applicants. So I left to come home under pressure from my husband because he was worried about me being on my own and not being able to fend for myself in a little country town. A month after my arrival in Australia I received my letter to go and do my biometrics.  The problem was i couldn’t go back because we didn’t know if my husband was going to jail or not and his attorney refused to accept his calls or return them when we would call him to find out whether we had enough time for me to go back do my biometrics get my 10 year green card and see what other options i could of had from there. Unfortunately 6 months lapsed. The attorney never returned our calls and I relinquished my green card thinking that I could reapply once my husband did his time and came out. After relinquishing we found out the hard cold facts about the AWA and now I’m stuck in Australia married to an American whom I may never be able to see or be with again due to a cruel and unnecessary law that’s been created to punish registered citizens and their families.  As if the registry isn’t enough to deal with we are also dealt this cruel law as well.

Hi Anna,
I’m sorry that you have to experience this frustrating ordeal. It sounds like you got outmaneuvered by USCIS and the immigration lawyer didn’t seem to know what he’s doing. Thank you for posting this story as this is one of the many we are trying to collect and present to the people that are in charge of making decisions. The plan is to just tell our stories and let them decide if this is just or not. We’re not going to challenge them on any legalities, but appeal to their hearts. We want to show them how these policies that may have been made with the intent to protect foreign children are actually affecting a large number of people who want nothing else but be together and have a normal life. I want to believe that behind these powerful positions are real people with a sense of compassion, even if the policies they’re trying to uphold are not.

“appeal to their hearts”?

With all due respect, did you only just now get involved in this? I know you didn’t, I’m just saying! Registry Supporters/Terrorists, ESPECIALLY the ones who support literally pure idiocy that doesn’t have even the tiniest of chances of every protecting anyone (e.g. IML!), do not have hearts. They are scum. Those “people” obviously do not care about children. Is that really not obvious? If anyone cared about children we would not have Hit Lists.

The Hit Lists, and the rampant stupidity that they enable and promote, are not going anywhere as long as smart, decent people are not fully in charge of government and policy making. As long as America overall continues to allow fringe morons, especially the ones with their anti-factual “conspiracy” theories, to have any say or voice in anything, the stupid will continue unabated.

There is not an epidemic of SEX or other crimes in America. There is absolutely an epidemic of stupid and hate. It is certainly a public health crisis.

The people who are behind the Hit List do NOT care about children, or they don’t care about the innocent children of registrants who suffer. That is such hypocrisy. The children of registrants can’t go to parks with their SO parent, can’t have them attend their school play, etc, etc. So why are these children not important? They are innocent bystanders, yet it is OK to have them suffer? Back to “THEY DO NOT CARE ABOUT CHILDREN”. Children are children and they can’t pick and choose what children they want to “protect”. It is the biggest hype, and we all know this!!

My husband and I have been dating since the summer of 2011. We got married in the early part of 2016. For reasons of travel and family, we were married in my home country of the Philippines. He was convicted of one count of communicating an obscenity to a minor a few months after we got married. I knew of the possibility of charges against him immediate after the incident happened. That was 14 months before our marriage. Even though I knew of his crime before our marriage, I decided to marry Carl my husband because I forgave him, and I love him. I know what is right in my husband’s heart. What is true is nothing but good things-the best intentions for everyone. He loves me, and I know his heart is right. I love him, and that is why I decided to move on despite his incident. I could have gotten mad and thrown up my hands and left him and started a new life. But I didn’t. I chose to stick with him because that’s what husbands and wives do in a marriage. Being bitter and unforgiving is not healthy for any relationship: our marriage is forever.

Our first petition for immigration was denied due to the Adam Walsh Act (AWA). We are now repetitioning to come to the United States. Due to the AWA, my husband’s probation and us not even being able to obtain a visit visa, It was four and a half years after our marriage before I saw my husband again! I totally understand the requirements to keep predators away from children. But it seems like no one in the USCIS or DHS has the sense to talk to me. They all assume something will happen again.

I’ve never been concerned about my husband being dangerous or doing something wrong. He will never be a threat to anyone. I have grown up on the streets in the Philippines. I have had to defend myself and my children from many forms of harassment, intimidation, and force from criminals and living on the street. My husband is not any of these things. I can tell who is honest and just and who I can trust in life’s situations. I fully trust him with my children. He loves them as his own.

I don’t have any worries about safety or any negative feelings about living with my husband and his criminal background. I am not worried, scared, or even a little bit concerned about being married to him and my children being around him. I’m not afraid for my kids because I know they are safe with him, and nothing would ever happen with their physical well-being or welfare. Whenever he was talking with the kids, I never had an uncomfortable feeling towards it. It’s not just my gut telling me, but my heart and my mind tells me he is trustworthy in any situation with my children

One thing that I feel should have happened was, someone could have reached out to me before denying our first immigration application to know how I feel towards it. Petitioners should be able to express how they feel and think about their safety. I know my husband and his situation. The USCIS and homeland security don’t know each story and the background of everything. They only see things in black and white!
My husband is a loving, caring man, of which there are fewer and fewer of these in the world today. I write this because I love my husband and I know he’s harmless-he poses no risk to anyone; he made a mistake. My children and I want to live with my husband. I miss my husband, and all we wish is for all of us to be together and build our family.

Even though my husband has committed a crime, I have never felt safer than when I’m with him. I know I’ll be safe with him, and my children will be safe also. I have never felt more alive and more complete. My husband will never harm my children, and I know he would never harm any other children or any human being.

My husband, is not a risk to my children or me. He is our protector. We will only be safe in this world when he is with us.

But because of the AWA, we sit. We wait. We pray. And hope for a good outcome. With the AWA and International Megan’s Law, we don’t know if he will be able to travel or come live in my country. We are essentially refugees because of AWA. Until this is decided, we don’t know where we will end up. That is no way for any couple to live, or (try) to raise a family. I hope and pray someone will pass legislation that will help not only us, but those who try to immigrate with similar situations.

Hi Imelda,
Your story is heartbreaking, and I can understand how you feel. My wife made the same choice – to stay with me because she sees the good person in me and not the monster society is trying to make me. Thank you for posting this story as this is one of the many we are trying to collect and present to the people that are in charge of making decisions. The plan is to just tell our stories and let them decide if this is just or not. We’re not going to challenge them on any legalities, but appeal to their hearts. We want to show them how these policies that may have been made with the intent to protect children are actually affecting a large number of people who want nothing else but be together and have a normal life and a family. The two-punch of AWA and IML rips families apart and it’s cruel. I want to believe that behind these powerful positions are real people with a sense of compassion, even if the policies they’re trying to uphold are not.

I’m been dating someone for 2 years I think she the one. She comes to the US because she have a visiting visa. We want to get married but we scare because AWA. I cant go to her country because they don’t accept RSO and I’m a RSO. its really hurt that we going to need to separate because we cant be together. I can only wish the new administration do something about this.

I’m been dating some for 2 years I think she the one. She comes to the US because she have a visiting visa. We want to get married but we scare because AWA. I cant go to her country because they don’t accept RSO and I’m a RSO its really hurt that we going to need to separate because we cant be together. i can only hope the new administration would change this.

Hi Jay,
I’m sorry you got caught in the web between AWA and IML. If you go to the FightAWA.org website, there are resources of immigration lawyers who have experience with AWA cases and may be able to provide you with helpful information on how to best deal with this situation. My wife and I are fighting this issue since 2006 when the AWA became law. Luckily she is in the US and she can stay here while the case is pending. However, she cannot leave the US, because she won’t be able to come back. So she chose to stay with me and remain in the US, which she calls a big prison.

This is a long story, and I hope you have the time to read it. If it’s too long, feel free to skip to the end and read the last paragraph.

Hello, my name is Hong. I am from China, the youngest of three children. My mom was a professor, and my dad a general in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. My mom passed away when I was 22 years old.
My dad encouraged me to go abroad, so I went to Japan where I studied and worked for 9 years. My dad did not want me to stay in Japan and get married there. He encouraged me to go to the United States and build a life there. I arrived in Los Angeles in 2002, and with the help of his friends I was able to get a work visa. I worked in a Taiwanese-led import export company.

Alex and I met through mutual friends at their engagement party in 2003. Our first date was on October 12 and it was an unforgettable day. We went for a long walk on the beach in Malibu and he took me on a flight over Los Angeles in the early evening hours. Just the two of us in his little airplane watching the moon rise over downtown LA. We took our dating slow. I am not one to make quick decisions when it comes to romantic relationships. Maybe that’s why I didn’t find a date in China or Japan that I would consider marrying. With Alex it was different. We share the same family values, commitment and trust. I saw how hard he was working and how kind he was to other people. He always treated me with respect and kind love. I knew he was a good man.

I was surprised to learn that he was accused of molesting a girl in the apartment complex he lived in. I believed him when he told me that he was innocent and was hopeful that this will all go away. But it didn’t. Alex was convicted for felony sexual battery on an unconscious victim. He had to go to jail and register as a sex offender for life. At that time, I didn’t know what consequences this would have on my life. The few friends who knew about this advised me not to marry him and walk away. But I followed my heart. I decided to put all my eggs into one basket and marry the man I know to be a good person. Even if he made a mistake, if he realizes that he made a mistake and changes to make up for his mistake, he is still a good person. We got married in June 2005. The week after our wedding, Alex reported to jail and did his time.

As most couples in our situation do, we applied for my green card. Everything went well. We had our interview with USCIS in April 2006 and everything seemed to be on track, until on July 27, 2006 George W. Bush signed the Adam Walsh Act into law. Suddenly the USCIS put our petition on hold and everything came to an abrupt stop. We did not understand why this law applies to us. I don’t have children that would be potentially in danger by having Alex as their father. He is kind and caring and it is ridiculous to believe that he would pose any risk for me. This didn’t make sense. Even our immigration lawyer was surprised and could not understand who this law is trying to protect in our case. What was even more surprising to us was that when we married and applied for my green card there was no Adam Walsh Act. So why were we subject to this law? How could we have known in 2005 that one year later there would be a law that prevents me from becoming a legal alien in the US? Would I have not married Alex? One thing I know for sure is that I would have stayed with him and found another way to remain in the US legally.

Luckily, I could apply for an advanced parole that allows me to go to China and be able to come back to the US. I learned that my dad became very ill with cancer, and I needed to go and be there for him.
In the meantime, Alex completed his mandatory sex offender treatment program and joined the 12-step fellowship of Sex Addicts Anonymous. He got a sponsor and became very active in this program. I could see that he was working hard to change himself. In 2007 he admitted himself voluntarily to a 42-day inpatient stay at Del Amo Hospital, a well renowned sex addiction and sex offender treatment program. My world shattered to pieces when I found his sexual history he wrote as part of his First Step in his recovery group. He actually did commit the crime he was accused of. I was angry. I was angry at him for lying to me, and I was angry for being so naïve. At first, I wanted to leave him, but the therapist at Del Amo told me to not make a decision right away. I was torn inside. How could the man who is so kind, loving a caring lie to me? He said that he could not tell me because he was afraid, I would leave him. I was devastated.
The day he finished his inpatient program, I left for China to take care of my dad.
While I was there, Alex focused on his recovery and was very concerned about my dad. His probation did not allow him to leave Los Angeles county, but he got the judge to allow him to visit me in China so he could meet my dad in person. My dad and Alex got along very well despite the language barrier. He stayed with me and my dad in the hospital almost the entire two weeks he was in China. No sightseeing or anything. He was there to support me in this hard time. I was not so mad at him anymore, because I saw that he still was the good person I know him to be. One month after Alex went back to Los Angeles my father passed away. He did not know about Alex’s crime; he knew him as a kind person who has vowed to take of me. He could leave in peace, knowing that his youngest daughter is in good hands.

When I returned to Los Angeles, I witnessed Alex helping other people in his 12-step program with their sobriety. He was so passionate about this that I suggested he make this into a career. In 2008, he began his studies to become an addiction counselor, specializing in sex addiction, the very addiction that got him into this predicament. USCIS requested additional documentation regarding his recovery and his criminal case, specifically a document from law enforcement that he was unable to obtain. Based on this missing document USCIS denied our I-485 application and in November 2009 USCIS denied our application, on grounds of not having enough documentation of Alex’s recovery that would “without of the benefit of a doubt” prove that he poses no risk to me. It seems that the deciding officer at USCIS did not even read the additional documents, but simply denied the petition.

Soon thereafter, I received the notice that I was being put into removal proceedings. In other words, I was in deportation proceedings and would have to leave the life I was building in the US with my husband behind and go back to China where nothing awaits me. Fortunately, we could afford an immigration lawyer who contested the deportation in immigration court. For the time being I did not have to leave. We filed a new petition in 2010, and have submitted further documentation of Alex’s recovery, including his California state certification as alcohol and drug addiction counselor. We appeared in immigration court every six months from 2010 until 2015. Since the judge does not have jurisdiction over the validity of our marriage, she was waiting for a decision from USCIS regarding the approval or denial of our I-130. Finally, in 2015 the judge had enough of this, and our lawyer got the removal process administratively closed. While this was good news, it also meant that I was no longer eligible for an advanced parole, the ability travel outside the US. If I were to leave the US, I would not be able to come back. It is called self-deportation.

We had several interviews ay USCIS, but no decision was made. They kept asking for more and more proof of Alex’s rehabilitation. Is case got expunged in 2012, the same year he got his BA in psychology. I was able to legally work and got a job with American Airlines as a Chinese and Japanese speaker in the high-end Flagship lounge where I accompanied travelers through LAX and made sure they got on their connecting flights. While I love this job, it is har to see all these people travel freely around the world, while I was stuck in the US. With the flight benefits, I could even travel for free. But no.

My friends in China and here do not understand why it is taking so long for me to get the green card. Some of my Chinese friends who got married long time after we did, already have their green cards. I could not tell them what the real reason behind this delay is, so I came up with all kinds of excuses. Only very few people know the real reason. There is such a big stigma behind being on the registry, or even having a loved on the registry. That it is hard to be open about this. Especially in the Chinese culture, this would bring immense shame on the entire family, so it’s better not to disclose this to anyone. Other than a very few close friends and my husband I have nobody I can openly talk to about this. I am alone in this.

Alex graduated with a degree in clinical social work in 2015. He did not let being on the registry get in the way of accomplishing his goal and purpose in life, which is to help other sex offenders to heal. He was asked to be on the board of directors at the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws (ACSOL) and leads an emotional support group for registrants and their loved ones. The group has grown since its beginnings in 2015 and is now nationwide. He became a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, but could not practice psychotherapy, because he didn’t get his internship number that would allow him to become licensed. So, from 2016 until 2020 he worked as a social worker with a non-profit organization, serving the homeless population in Los Angeles. This was social work in the trenches. He saved several people’s lives who were on the brink of dying from an opiate overdose. He helped many people get off the streets and into their new homes. He worked tirelessly to make difference. Despite the hard work, he was always kind and respectful to his clients and coworkers and this made me love him even more.

On August 17, 2016 the dreaded Notice with Intent to Deny (NOID) arrived in the mail. Ironically, one week later, Alex got the Certificate of Rehabilitation from the California Supreme court and no longer has to register as a sex offender. We submitted the additional evidence of recovery, including a thorough psychiatric evaluation that clearly states that he poses no risk to me, only to receive another NOID in February 2017 asking about clarifying information as to how Alex’s clinical work is influencing his need for ongoing therapy. He is no longer in therapy for his offense, he is in therapy because in his profession it is encouraged to be in therapy. It seems they are reaching for straws now. How much more evidence is needed for USCIS to make a decision to grant us the AWA waiver? Furthermore, they don’t even provide us with a way to give them more information about his recovery and successes.

Alex continues to strive. In 2020 he won the lawsuit against the Board of Behavioral Sciences and got his intern number. He can finally practice sex addiction treatment as a psychotherapist and is doing so, helping addicts to heal from this powerful addiction. He wants to become a mandated sex offender treatment provider and help registrants to come to terms with their offending behavior, help them heal from their shame and reintegrate into society, But the California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB), the organization that gives out these certifications, does not allow someone with this kind of a criminal record to become a treatment provider for sex offenders. How ironic. Who better than someone who has walked this path would be better suited to help those that are still walking it?

Meanwhile I am still stuck in limbo, dreading to go to the mailbox everyday in fear of finding another rejection letter from USCIS. I am still working at American Airlines and have to apply for a work permit every year. And the fees keep getting higher and higher every year. Yes, I am lucky that I can work and be with my husband, but the constant fear, and the unsettled feeling is taking a toll on my mental health. If it wasn’t for our loving relationship, I would be going insane. I cannot travel outside the US. I cannot visit my elderly friends in Japan who I may not be able to see anymore before they pass away. Every time I talk to them my heart is bleeding, because I cannot tell them why I can’t come to visit them. I cannot see my family and friends in China I could not be there for my brother who passed away two years ago, or my sister who is going through a hard time.

I have suffered the past 15 years under this unfair and insane law, and I am fed-up with this! This is why I am reaching out to other wives and partners of registered citizens who are in a similar situation. We need to unite and make our voices heard. Not only on this blog, but out in the world. Especially these people in power need to hear our stories so they can hopefully recognize how destructive this AWA is to families. Please contact me on this board, so we can unite, and inform the broader public and those in power of the real-life consequences of this insane, ineffective and damaging law.

Together we can make a difference, so let’s show up, stand up, speak up!

Hong

The Adam Walsh Act affects my ability to provide financial security for my family in the event that I die. Per the Social Security Administration, dependents or survivors must have resided in the U.S. for a period of at least 5 years during which time the relationship with the U.S. citizen as a spouse, widow/widower, child or parent has existed. The Adam Walsh Act makes it impossible for my family to have financial security by receiving the Social Security benefits that I earned to be passed to them like other families have the opportunity to receive.

The AWA affects my family and hurts me trying to make sure my family is financially secure in case of my death. My family and I live outside the United States. My children are U.S. citizens, my wife is not. My children and wife have never lived in the U.S. We do not live in any of the countries that have treaty or totalization agreaments that waves the 5 year residency requirement.

All I want is the ability to make sure my family is taken care of and that my social security benefits pass to my family upon my death like any other family would have the opportunity to receive. Any other family living outside the United States with an alien wife would still have the opportunity to apply for a green card for their spouse so that they can meet this 5 year residency rule.

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