Democrats Fight to Protect All Victims of Domestic Violence
Washington, DC, May 9, 2012
Today at markup, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Committee Democrats opposed H.R. 4970, a Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) Reauthorization bill that omits protections for vulnerable communities and removes existing protections for immigrant women. The bill omits language designed to protect Native American women by allowing tribal authorities to prosecute their abusers. It also omits language to ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons do not face discrimination when seeking services from VAWA funded programs. This language is already included in a bipartisan bill passed by a supermajority in the Senate.
Additionally, H.R. 4970 rolls back longstanding protections for immigrant women, who are particularly vulnerable because they are reliant on their spouses for immigration status. It eliminates the confidentiality of VAWA petitions for protection by allowing immigration officials to contact a battered woman’s abusive spouse, tipping off the abuser to the victim’s efforts to leave. The bill also weakens the so-called “U Visa” process for victims of serious crimes such as rape and sexual assault, and it eliminates existing provisions that allow recipients of U visas who cooperate with law enforcement to apply for green cards. These changes impede law enforcement officials’ ability to use these visas to protect victims, prosecute serious criminals, and make our streets safer.
All Democratic members and one Republican opposed H.R. 4970 on the vote for final passage. House Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released this statement following the markup.
“I cannot consider a bill that worsens existing protections for vulnerable women a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act,” said Conyers. “Since the Violence Against Women Act originally passed in 1994, Congress has worked on a bipartisan basis to not only reauthorize the law, but improve upon it. Until today, every subsequent reauthorization considered by this Committee strengthened the law to make it easier for victims to escape their abusers and for law enforcement officials to prosecute them. This bill does the opposite.
“This bill omits important provisions that would help protect Native American women and ensure that all victims regardless of sexual orientation can access services without facing discrimination. Worse, it actually eliminates existing protections for immigrant women, ending the confidentiality of their VAWA petitions, and putting these women in further danger by allowing immigration officials to contact their abusers. It erects additional hurdles for crime victims seeking a ‘U’ visa, making it more difficult for law enforcement officials to gain the cooperation of immigrant women fearful to speak against perpetrators. This bill doesn’t just fail to move the law forward, it takes a giant step back.
“That is why hundreds of advocacy organizations oppose this legislation, including: the National Task Force to end Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women; the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs; the National Council Against Domestic Violence; the National Network to End Domestic Violence; the National Congress of American Indians; the National Organization for Women; the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; and the Human Rights Campaign.
“The Senate set aside partisan differences to protect the most vulnerable members of our society. The Senate bill, which passed with a supermajority of Democrats and Republicans, including every woman Senator, is a true reauthorization of VAWA, as is the bill introduced in the House by Representative Gwen Moore. This body needs to consider one of those bills.”