Thursday, February 14, 2013

Senate Backs Immigrant Clauses in Violence Against Women Act

In a 78-22 vote the Senate approved a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that includes some safeguards for immigrants.

Among the provisions approved by the Senate on Tuesday is one that would provide help to immigrants who are abused and married to U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.  These victims would be allowed to petition for independent legal status.  Another clause has a visa option that would permit abused undocumented immigrants to remain in the country. 

One of the pro-immigrant clauses dropped from the Senate bill would’ve permitted granting U visas to undocumented immigrant abuse victims.  This clause would’ve helped law enforcement officials examine abuse cases was done reportedly in order to improve the odds of the proposal’s approval in the House of Representatives.

The original VAWA was passed in 1994 and had been reauthorized twice but it expired in 2011.
The Republican-controlled House last year passed its own bill, which left out the visa provision as well as services for gay victims. In response to the Senate’s actions, seventeen House Republicans wrote a letter to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Speaker John Boehner seeking support for the VAWA reauthorization.

As mentioned in an ABC News article, reauthorizing and expanding VAWA benefits could benefit Latina immigrants:

Immigrant women are less likely to report abuse to authorities. According to a report by the National Institute of Justice, Hispanic women, too, are more likely than non-Hispanic women to be raped by a current or former intimate partner, but less likely to report the abuse to authorities.  
The reasons for that are complicated and varied, but they range from fear of retaliation by the abuser to a belief that authorities will not believe the allegations of violence. The latter is particularly acute for immigrants who may lack an understanding of the justice system, and undocumented immigrants, who may fear deportation.
President Barack Obama urged Congress to pass the VAWA during his latest State of the Union address.  “We know our economy is stronger when our wives, our mothers, our daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace, and free from the fear of domestic violence,” said Obama.

Video Source– YouTube via user NewsyPolitics

Online Sources - National Institute of Justice, ABC News,, BBC News

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