House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released the following statement in response to a Republican manager’s amendment to H.R. 4970, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA), adopted by the House Committee on Rules yesterday evening.
“The managers’ amendment is a fig leaf meant to cover the simple truth that this bill rolls back existing law and fails to protect some of the most vulnerable victims of violence. Even with the manager’s amendment, this bill still shifts power into the hands of abusers, still delays or denies protection to battered immigrant spouses and victims of heinous crimes such as rape and sexual assault, still prevents law enforcement from gaining the cooperation of many immigrant victims of serious crimes, and still leaves more dangerous criminals on the streets to strike again.
“Even further, the manager’s amendment still chooses to protect only those victims its sponsors agree with. It does little to nothing to ensure members of the LGBT community and Native women are protected from violence. In fact, the new protection orders for Native women added by the manager’s amendment would make current law worse and dangerously reverse VAWA’s historic victim-centered approach by authorizing tribes to seek protection orders on behalf of an abused woman without first obtaining her approval. It would also require Native women to travel hours to obtain protection orders from a federal district court—protection orders that would be difficult to enforce by tribal police who have not been deputized.”
The manager’s amendment is worse than current law because it still:
Rolls back protections in the VAWA self-petition process, empowering abusers and harming battered immigrant spouses. It tips the scales in favor of abusers by eliminating the requirement that abuser-provided evidence be investigated and corroborated before it can be used to deny the victim protection. It also increases bureaucracy by creating duplicative, unnecessary requirements that would effectively delay or deny protection to battered immigrant victims.
Rolls back “U” visa provisions, denying protection to immigrant victims of serious crime and stripping police and prosecutors of a critical law enforcement tool. It erects new barriers in the “U” visa process, substituting Congress’s judgment about how crime victims can assist law enforcement for that of police officers and prosecutors. It also eliminates the ability of most ‘U’ visa holders to obtain green cards, forcing the immigrant victim to risk deportation if they choose to report a crime and cooperate with law enforcement.
Fails to include provisions from the bipartisan Senate-passed bill to protect Native women’s lives and includes dangerous new language that may lead to further abuse. It authorizes tribal governments to seek protection orders on behalf of victims with or without their permission, violating the core principle that such victims must have autonomy and control over requests for help. Victims of domestic violence know best when and how to seek safety. Instead of taking serious steps to address the epidemic of domestic violence on tribal lands by empowering tribal police and courts to hold all perpetrators accountable, it creates an unnecessary and unsafe process through which federal courts may issue orders of protection.
Fails to include provisions from the bipartisan Senate-passed bill that protect LGBT victims from discrimination and the amendment eliminates protections against employment discrimination. It fails to protect LGBT persons seeking services under the Violence Against Women Act from discrimination. The manager’s amendment also makes changes allowing discrimination in employment by programs receiving VAWA funding – any grantee, for any reason would be able to discriminate on the basis of “actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability or sexual orientation.”
This legislation is still opposed by a broad coalition of advocacy organizations. Among these organizations are the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, the National Association of Evangelicals, 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 American Civil Liberties Union. More information can be found at this link.