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Immigrant Women’s Advocates Celebrate Passage of Violence Against Women Act

Group is hopeful protections for immigrant survivors will be expanded

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights (NCIWR) celebrates the House’s passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The bill provides much needed new protections for immigrant women and girls, including protections from rape and sexual assault for detained children through the Prison Rape Elimination Act. Though the bill does not include an expansion of U-visas that was a part of earlier versions of the bill, it represents a long overdue step forward in the effort to protect survivors of violence. The bill also provides important new protections for LGBT and Native American survivors.

“We are encouraged by the House’s leadership in passing the Violence Against Women Act, especially the inclusion of protections that will support young and LGBT immigrants,” said Jessica González-Rojas, Executive Director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), a member of NCIWR’s steering committee. “Yet, we urge Congress to remain committed to advancing protections for immigrant survivors of domestic and sexual assault and take up the U-visa expansion for immigrants, a provision which did not make it into this bill.”

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who sponsored the bill in the Senate, has stated that he intends to include the U-visa provision in an immigration policy reform package. U-visas allow survivors of sexual or domestic violence to petition for temporary legal status and work eligibility without relying on the status of an abusive partner. This allows victims to come forward and work with law enforcement agents to ensure abusers are prosecuted without fear of being deported.

Additionally, Representatives Janice Schakowsky (D-IL) and Judy Chu (D-CA), among others, recently proposed the Violence Against Immigrant Women Act of 2013, which would increase the number of women who are able to obtain the U-visa.

Miriam Yeung, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), an NCIWR steering committee member, comments, “This was long overdue, and we are pleased lawmakers were able to set politics aside to protect women facing violence. This VAWA bill provides important protections for immigrant women, who make many contributions and are the backbones of their families and communities.”

Additionally, NCIWR urges Congress to build upon the momentum in passing VAWA to ensure immigration reform is inclusive of, and responsive to, the unique needs of immigrant women. “As Congress and the White House move to reform our immigration laws, it is imperative that policymakers recognize the contributions of immigrant women and address the needs of our community, including enhanced protections from violence,” said Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, also a member of NCIWR’s steering committee. “We look forward to working with Congress and the White House to ensure protections for immigrants facing domestic and sexual violence are promptly addressed.”


The National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights is the leading national collaboration to specifically focus on women and gender issues in the public discourse on immigration. The coalition represents more than 80 grassroots and advocacy organizations. For more information about the National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights, please visit http://nciwr.wordpress.com.

Erin White, erin@caminopr.com, 212.255.2575