Saturday, July 11, 2009

Help Jessica Davanzo

Shiva at Biodiverse Resistance has a post up about an American-born UK resident named Jessica Davanzo, who is facing deportation from her adoptive homeland because she left her abusive, UK-citizen ex-husband before her two-year spouse visa had been renewed.

Here is her story:
I originally came to England several years ago to study sculpture....I met and fell in love with a man whom I later married on October 3rd 2006, I moved over to England as his wife on October 15th 2006 on a 2 year spouse visa...I went immediately into full time employment, contributing to the local economy and have endeavored to immerse myself in all aspects of my new life and become involved in the community....sadly just after our marriage my husband changed drastically and became controlling and abusive to the point where I feared for my life and had no other option but to leave despite the fact that I tried all forms of counseling and anything I could possibly do to save our marriage...but my fleeing our marital home came just shy of the time when my marriage visa would have been up for renewal for indefinite leave to remain....I took on a management role in a new town and began my life again.....I worked extremely hard and built a new life for myself.....Under a tremendous amount of stress and pressure of my marriage breaking down and being alone in a new town taking on a new management role... I ended up in hospital with a rare neurological disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome which left me paralysed out of work and in hospital for some time....[...] After I recovered I felt compelled to take a job working as a carer for a woman in a wheelchair who also suffered from a neurological disease, though hers [was] genetic and more severe....After going through what I did I was humbled and wanted to make a difference in someone's life...Since that time I have become deeply immersed in my employer's life ....taking part in ensuring her every day [...] needs are met as well as helping her follow her dreams....I have completely given up my life in America for the one I have here, a place I know as home...after all this time, and all the struggles, first just surviving on my own after nearly two years of abuse...then fighting for my life in hospital and finally recovering and getting back into the work force, fully supporting myself and always paying national insurance etc.....never once getting recourse to public funds or income support....things had finally turned around...I got my own house, a job and my friends and family in a place that I loved only to get a letter from the Home Office alerting me that my application had been refused with no right to appeal....I am shocked and appalled that the message sent from Lawyers and Home Office seemed to indicate that had I stayed with an abusive man and risked my life I would have been granted the"privilege" of living in England...but instead after years of making a life for myself I am now being told that I must leave the only home I know.
What's at stake here is not just the quality of Jessica's life --- disastrous though it would be for her to be compelled to leave everyone she knows, start over and rebuild her life from scratch again --- but of Roxanne's (her employer, Roxanne Homayoun) as well.

Shiva's press release explains:
Roxanne, who has physical and visual impairments and requires 24-hour assistance, and is an activist for disability rights with an MA in 20th century history, said "Jessica is such a truly positive, honest and principled person that she has helped me to see that many of my dreams are still achievable, they just need modifying. I would be absolutely devastated if Jessica is deported."
...
Jessica's case brings together issues of vital concern for feminists, disability rights activists and all those who support the free movement of people across borders. The UK Government's decision to demand that she leave the country shows a complete disregard for the circumstances of women fleeing abusive relationships (if she had stayed within the relationship and continued to submit to her ex-husband's violence, she would have been permitted to stay in the country - what message does that send to women trapped in such situations? This is victim-blaming at its worst - women being punished for getting out of a life-threatening situation or rewarded for staying within it) and for the incredibly important role of PAs [Personal Assistants] in maintaining disabled people's independence.

The letter Jessica received from the Home Office claims that forcing her to leave the UK is not a breach of Jessica's human rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, they have totally failed to take into consideration the human rights of her employer, Roxanne, whose physical safety, freedom of private life and ability to participate in political society would all be put in serious jeopardy by the loss of her PA, given the extreme rarity of PAs with whom disabled employers are able to build up the sort of relationship (itself arguably "family life" under Article 8 of the ECHR) enjoyed by Roxanne and Jessica.

If the UK Government cared either about women survivors of marital abuse or about disabled people who need assistance to live independently (for whom it can take an extremely long time to find a PA with the right attitude to genuinely support their human right to choice and control over their own lives, and for whom losing such a PA could easily result in risk of institutionalisation or life-threatening neglect), then it would not have threatened Jessica with deportation. Jessica Must Stay!
Without Jessica, the quality of Roxanne's life would immediately deteriorate. She'd be on her own until she could find another PA, who may or may not be willing or able to help her maintain the same way of life she had with Jessica, and who in any case will be a stranger, not a trusted friend. At worst, as Shiva mentions, she might never get another PA and be institutionalized, or she might get a PA who neglects or abuses her.

It strikes me as particularly disgusting that this relationship, from which not only both partners, but also British society in general, derive such benefit should count for nothing to the immigration officials deciding Jessica's fate, especially when her marriage would have been sufficient to keep her in England. This, it seems to me, is a double standard privileging the nuclear family over all other possible household configurations.

There's a petition online here, telling Jessica's story and asking that she be granted an appeal, and a Facebook group supporting her.

You can also email the UK Home Office at public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk, or, if you want to go right to the source, there's the UK Border Agency's case-resolution directorate, which you can reach at UKBApublicenquiries@ukba.gsi.gov.uk

Since Jessica used to be a US citizen, and would be deported here, I might as well throw in the e-mail contact form for the US Department of State. Let's get Hillary Clinton on their case!

Good luck, Jessica.

6 comments:

Gonzo said...

Oh god.
Thanks for writing about this and the things that can be done about it as well.

Sharon said...

This is bad. This woman fully deserves to stay in the UK.

Stephanie Lynn Keil said...

I signed.

Ana said...

I found your blog on this article after seeing the group for this cause on FB. The FB group really says nothing of detail. I wanted to know more, so I 'googled'.

Lindsay, I think you made a mistake to refer to same sex couple immigration - I don't understand the mention - your mention of it kinda muddies the situation and makes no real point [in my opinion] - I think your obviously trying to point out a bond between the two ladies through the work Jessica has done as Roxanne's assistant, but obviously immigration will see this as a work relationship - not under a family or spouse heading of any sort.

Looking at the facts, Jessica based her immigration to the UK on marriage:

She married her then husband Oct 3rd 2006...A few weeks later she moved over here [UK] Oct 15th 2006 on a 2yr spouse visa.

The interlude where Jessica leaves her marriage and then continues life in the UK, will, I think, be one part the Home Office may have issue with. On ending the relationship she would have been required to inform the Home Office because this then changed her immigration status in the UK.

Her then new management role, unless it was employment that was highly skilled and or under a category that is short of the countries own workers, would most likely not obtain her a work visa and unfortunately, neither would her later work for Roxanne, as PA.

It may come down to, if she informed the Home Office of the breakdown of her marriage, or not and if she changed to the relevant status before continuing life in the UK - I'm thinking she might not have? The point that the Home Office can easily argue, is, if she had not informed them of the change to her visa status and inturn changed visa's to continue her stay [if possible] THEN, at this point, she did not actually have the right to obtain the employment with Roxanne in the first place - So then they may not even recognize the importance of the working relationship built between the two ladies.

In terms of Roxanne's right's: Should Jessica have taken up employment with Roxanne and gone onto to form a strong bond, knowing that her status in the UK may well not be secure? - How fair was this on Roxanne to begin with?? Should Roxanne have entered into the PA arrangement without checking the long term immigration status of Jessica? - knowing how hard it would be on her, should Jessica not go on to obtain her leave to remain.

The Home Office work with facts only.

Jessica says:
"had I stayed with an abusive man and risked my life I would have been granted the"privilege" of living in England"

In literal terms, had she of lied that the marriage continued to be all that it should be, she could of then gone on to obtain the indefinite leave to remain - but you are supposed to inform the H.O of the break down of the marriage - the choice to not inform them and to stay to be abused, so as to gain the indefinite leave to remain [based now under the wrong category] would be your choice.

I do agree, had she of wrongly suffered for ? more months she would have gained her indefinite leave to remain - But everything depends on what happened at the point of change in her original immigration status...The Home Office, rightly or wrongly will see that she had choices before taking up the position of Roxanne's PA, she could have: 1] left her marriage and returned home to America, for good, why not? Not great if she prefers it in the UK but after 18 months - ish? Life in America should be salvageable? [If there are special circumstances regards to her return, she would do very well to strongly point these out] 2] Tried to change her visa status while still here in the UK [but I don't think that is possible]...Or, 3] gone home to America to then apply for an applicable / different visa status and then come back to continue life and work in the UK.

Lindsay said...

Ana, I wasn't all that happy with that paragraph either --- I wanted to explain better the point about seeing a double standard that privileged nuclear family arrangements over other households (with "household" as I use it here not meant to imply any familial relation; just living together) --- but if you were confused, it obviously wasn't doing its job.

So I deleted those lines, and just left this ---
"This, it seems to me, is a double standard privileging the nuclear family above all other possible household configurations." ---
to stand on its own.

Reading it again, it doesn't seem as cryptic as it did before, and even so, ambiguity is better than obfuscatory explanation.

shiva said...

Oh wow. Thank you - i had no idea this would be spread so far. Before this blows up *too* huge, i would like to point out that there are almost certainly many others in similar positions to Jessica, and that it's because i know her, not because i think she deserves any "special" rights that the others don't, that i am publicising this.

(Maybe being a little paranoid there, but there have been some very critical comments on the Facebook group.)

More responses to some other stuff later. But thanks again for reposting this :)