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House Republicans Play Politics with Battered Immigrant Women’s Lives

May 16, 2012

House of Representatives Approves Weakened Violence Against Women Act


Washington, D.C. — The House of Representatives approved on Wednesday a watered-down version of the historic Violence Against Women Act. The House’s legislation, H.R. 4970, strips away existing protections for immigrant women who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or human trafficking. The proposal passed the House 222- 205 with 22 Republicans voting against the bill.

“The immigration debate reached a new low today with House Republicans putting politics before the safety of abused or trafficked immigrant women and children,” said Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum.

The legislation erodes confidentiality protections and allows abusers to participate in the adjudication process. The bill also changes the U Visa, which currently protects immigrant victims of crime who assist law enforcement, into a temporary visa for most applicants. Instead of providing an avenue to permanent legal status, applying for a U Visas could now lead to deportation for victims and crime witnesses who come forward.

Over the past 17 years, law enforcement and prosecutors have relied on the Violence Against Women Act to combat human trafficking, rape and domestic violence. The legislation has long enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support since its creation in 1994, but it has now fallen prey to election-year, partisan politics.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, along with 28 other prominent faith-based groups, signed a letter to Congress last week expressing how they are “deeply troubled" by the bill's efforts to "roll back protections in current law for battered non-citizens, making them more vulnerable and, in some cases, endangering their lives.".

In an opinion piece published today on CNN.com, Leith Anderson from the National Association of Evangelicals and Lynne Hybels of the Willow Creek Community Church, called on “Speaker John Boehner and the House leadership to make sure that the Violence Against Women Act continues to protect vulnerable immigrant women who are victims of human trafficking or domestic violence.”

Added Noorani, “House Republicans should not disregard the concerns of evangelicals and faith leaders who are troubled by Republicans seeking political gain at the expense of the safety of abused women and children. All vulnerable women and children deserve to be safe from harm, no matter where they were born. It's un-American and shameful for Republican politicians to not recognize that fundamental principle."

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