Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2012

Publication Citation

19 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 221 (2012)


Cross-border marriages and other forms of family reunification dominate officially recognized migratory flows around the world today, and they offer the most widely recognized path to naturalized citizenship in destination countries. At the same time, however, transnational marriages may also rest on shaky foundations precisely because immigrant spouses depend on their citizen partner for legal status. When marriages fail due to domestic violence, they expose the incompatibility of different legal domains organized around domestic violence prevention and immigration regulation. This Article examines the legal conflicts that emerged in response to a recent case in Taiwan involving an immigrant wife from Mainland China who, after suffering several years of domestic violence, killed her citizen husband in 2006. The case underscores the complex and often unpredictable intersections of domestic violence prevention law, immigration policy, and feminist legal reforms aimed at women's empowerment. Despite the district-level court's unprecedented ruling of legitimate defense, the case continued to serve as a flashpoint for competing ethical orientations as it made its way through the appeals process, in turn exposing conflicting legal principles and gendered family role expectations faced by immigrant as opposed to citizen women. Although the initial ruling pointed to growing judicial recognition of the deep-seated psychological and emotional effects of domestic violence, its overall impact was undercut by the defendant's immigrant status and pervasive suspicions about marital motives triggered by that status. By analyzing the case itself and the various legal and activist strategies mobilized around it, this Article evaluates the limitations and possibilities of law and policy reforms enacted on the uneven terrain of domestic violence prevention and gendered immigration flows.

Globalization and Migration Symposium, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Bloomington, Indiana, April 7-8, 2011