• House Bill on Violence against Women Weakens Protections for Abused Immigrant Women

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    WASHINGTON, D.C., May 17, 2012–The Women’s Refugee Commission calls on Congress and President Obama to reject H.R. 4970, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday. Sponsored by Republican Sandy Adams (FL) and supported by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), H.R. 4970 removes critical protections that have made our communities safer.

    “VAWA, and its subsequent reauthorizations, has brought about vital measures that protect victims of domestic violence,” said Michelle Brané, Director of the Detention and Asylum Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “Safety from abuse and rape should not depend on race, ethnic background or immigration status. And immigrant women are at a higher risk when their immigration status becomes one more weapon the abuser has over the victim.”

    Under VAWA, which was first passed in 1994, immigrants with abusive spouses can self-petition for a green card, thus removing their dependence on an abusive spouse for legal status. H.R. 4970 dramatically rolls back protections for abused immigrant women in existing law and will further discourage victims from going to the police for help.

    VAWA also created U visas for victims of crimes who cooperate with the authorities to investigate the crimes. H.R. 4970 curtails the right to self-petition and limits the number of U visas provided for in the bipartisan Senate version of the bill. “This rollback in protections for victims of crime and abuse is yet another sign that Capitol Hill isn’t really thinking about the best interest of women,” said Brané.  “VAWA is an important piece of legislation that deserves to be free from partisan battles over immigration and women’s issues,” said Brané.

    The Senate passed a bipartisan bill (S. 1925) that would continue VAWA’s important protections and make modest improvements. The Women’s Refugee Commission calls on President Obama to veto the new version of VAWA unless the punitive provisions included in H.R. 4970 are removed.