Protect victims of domestic violence
Image courtesy Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence
On Wednesday night (May 16), the U.S. House of Representatives passed a version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that, if enacted into law, could have serious implications for the safety of victims of domestic violence. Since the Senate has passed a more inclusive version of the bill, which continues to ensure important protections for immigrant survivors of domestic abuse, a 'conference committee' will now consider the two bills and decide which version will become law.
Once the members of this conference committee are announced, we will post their names here as key members to contact. For now, it is still important to call your Senators and Representative TODAY to urge them to enact the SENATE version of VAWA – and to REJECT the House version.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is supposed to protect survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. Congress created VAWA in 1994, and has voted twice since then to reauthorize the law, each time with broad bipartisan support.
Abusers often exploit their victims’ immigration status or lack thereof, making them afraid to report the abuse to law enforcement. Because of prior versions of VAWA, current law empowers survivors of domestic violence to leave their abusers without immigration penalties, and encourages survivors to testify against their abusers in court by offering standard protections – which helps stop abusers from abusing again.
VAWA is up for reauthorization right now – but the House version goes against the intention of VAWA to actually roll back protections in current law for non-citizens in particular, making them much more vulnerable and, in some cases, endangering their lives.
If enacted into law, H.R. 4970, the VAWA version passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday night, would put thousands of immigrant women and children at risk. It is a giant step backwards. It's not the VAWA we know, or the VAWA we will accept.
The Violence Against Women Act must not be used as a political weapon to put non-citizen domestic violence survivors in harm’s way. I oppose the House version because it would:
- Get rid of confidentiality protections for immigrant survivors of abuse when they report domestic violence. This is dangerous, because when abusers learn that victims have contacted law enforcement, they commonly retaliate with even greater violence.
- Deny immigrant women and children who report violence and crime to law enforcement the ability to EVER get U.S. lawful permanent residence. This would keep victims from coming forward to report violent abuse and crimes perpetrated against them, since they would fear deportation and other future consequences themselves when they approach police.
- Impose the highest burden of proof in our immigration system on self-petitioners for the U-Visa for survivors of domestic violence. It would also mandate a permanent bar, FBI criminal investigation, and expedited removal of survivors and their children for any alleged “material misrepresentations” in their petition for relief.
- Require that the survivors help identify the perpetrator. Not only can this be an intensely emotional and psychological experience to force a survivor to undergo, but many sexual assault victims never get a good look at the perpetrator.
- Force every VAWA self-petitioner to participate in multiple face-to-face interviews with Department of Homeland Security officials and untrained local field staff, which can be dangerous since abusers often track victims' locations and are easily suspicious that they have reported them.
- Endanger the safety of survivors by placing their case on indefinite hold while awaiting the investigation or trial of their perpetrator.
Contact your Senators and Representative, urging them to only support the SENATE version of VAWA – and to REJECT the House version, H.R. 4970.