When immigrants move to America to be with their spouse, many become victims of abuse. There are predators who use their foreign spouse’s pending immigration status as a way to manipulate and control them. This can go on for years before discovered and some never report it at all. They may focus only on getting out alive and moving as far away as possible.

NBC Washington notes that to protect these people, the Violence Against Women Act was incorporated into immigration law. However, many immigrants who merely duped their partners into marrying them so they could stay in the country, make false claims of domestic violence to avoid remaining with the person for the mandatory two years. It also allows them to self-petition and fast-track the way to residency and citizenship.

There seems to have been an increase in these self-petitions in the past five years. This caused many unsuspecting men and women to spend years trying to fight allegations and clear their names. If alleged abusers can clear their names, then they may be able to seek reparations for the false allegations against them.

Science Direct states that false allegations are not just a crime but may also be considered a felony in some cases. People found to make false allegations may face penalties to make up for the damage caused to the person, property or reputation of the individual they falsely accused. They may also need to make reparations for wasting the resources of police officers, volunteers and other agents who stepped in to either deliver justice or provide assistance to an alleged victim.

Professionals in the field worry that the fraudulent use of self-petitioning via VAWA may put real victims at risk and make it more difficult for them to seek its protection. However, also victimized are the spouses who now face criminal charges for crimes they did not commit.