By Laura Vazquez, Legislative Analyst, Immigration Policy Project
The NCLR Affiliate Network includes organizations that provide critical services to victims of domestic violence and abuse. When the House Judiciary Committee debated H.R. 4970, the “Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2012” (VAWA), I was thinking of them. I was thinking of the survivors of domestic violence who have come through their doors. It is these clients that Congress has sought to protect in its history of reauthorizing VAWA. However, H.R. 4970 eradicates protections desperately needed for immigrant survivors of domestic violence. The Latin American Community Center’s Domestic Violence Program, an NCLR Affiliate in Delaware, said, “we witness firsthand how immigrant victims are already at a disadvantage when getting victim protections.” It is because of these stories and because of the fact that far too many immigrants are victims of domestic violence that NCLR strongly opposes H.R. 4970.
In 1994, VAWA was enacted to protect victims of domestic violence. Recognizing that abusers often exploit a victim’s immigration status, Congress created tools to assist survivors in coming forward to report the crime and assist law enforcement in prosecuting the abusers. Community-based organizations, including some NCLR Affiliates, have taken these tools not only to protect immigrant women, but to assist in the prosecutions of the abusers. According to the Department of Justice, since the passage of VAWA, incidences of domestic violence have decreased by more than 50%.
H.R. 4970 seeks to take those tools away, putting victims at risk and giving power to perpetrators of domestic violence, stalking, sex crimes, and human trafficking. H.R. 4970 would effectively prevent immigrant victims from applying for protection from their abusers. It radically changes the current application process for immigrant women and puts steep new hurdles to eligibility in the path of immigrant survivors seeking protection under VAWA. We urge the House of Representatives to reject H.R. 4970 because it denies victims protection and deters victims of crime from cooperating with law enforcement. We hope that Congress can return to the long-standing intent of VAWA and pass a bill that protects all victims of domestic violence.