House VAWA Bill Threatens Protections for Immigrant Women and Children

Written by on May 3, 2012 in Congress, Family, Immigration Law, Visas with 10 Comments

This year, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is up for reauthorization. Last week, the Senate passed a reauthorization (S. 1925)—which provides protection to people who are the victims of domestic violence, rape, trafficking, sexual assault, stalking, and similar crimes—by a vote of 68-31.  The House will takes up its own version next week, but in contrast to the Senate bill, which strengthened protections for immigrants, the House bill threatens to rollback protections for immigrant women and children who are victims of abuse.

VAWA has routinely received bipartisan support, including its protections for immigrant women who are victims of domestic violence. Immigrant women face specific challenges when they have an abusive spouse. For example, immigrants with abusive spouses can self-petition for a green card, thus removing their dependence on an abusive spouse for legal status.  VAWA also created U visas for victims of crimes who cooperate with the authorities to investigate the crime and T visas for victims of human trafficking.

The Senate bill expanded several protections for immigrant women and children including:

  • Allows for up to 5,000 additional U visas annually.
  • Adds “stalking” to the list of criminal activities covered by U visas for victims.
  • Provides protections for minor children of self-petitioners who die before the petition is completed.
  • Provides that VAWA self-petitioners and applicants for T and U visas cannot be barred from admission on grounds they are a public charge.
  • Provides that children of the applicants of U visas will be covered on their parent’s application for a visa if they turn 21 before the application process is complete.
  • Adds protections for fiancées or fiancés on K visas from potentially abusive marriages.
  • Requires annual reports to be submitted on the outcomes of VAWA immigration cases.

However, the Senate bill also includes a provision added by Senator Grassley (R-IA) that makes a third drunk driving (DUI) conviction an “aggravated felony,” meaning the immigrant is subject to mandatory deportation and denial of any benefits.

The House will likely take up H.R. 4970, introduced by Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL).  While the details are still being worked out, the House bill appears intent on rolling back years of VAWA protections for immigrants.  The House bill:

  • Does not allow for any additional U visas.
  • Allows alleged abusers to provide their side of the story and submit evidence to USCIS adjudicators.
  • Subjects victims to greater penalties for perjury or misrepresentation, including expedited removal.
  • Creates higher standards, including even more cooperation with law enforcement that U visa applicants must meet.
  • Moves adjudication of VAWA cases from the well-regarded, specialized adjudication unit in Vermont to local offices.

VAWA is an important piece of legislation that deserves to be free from partisan battles over immigration issues.  For many years, Congress has been able to agree on protections for immigrant victims, and we hope that this year will not be an exception.

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  1. Critical to the development and success of any society is the protection and empowerment of women. I hope that people can put aside partisan politics in an effort to create an effective and easy to use system to create that protection.

  2. And what of the false marriage, green-card frauds who duped and are never abused by U.S, citizens? The ambition of protection of the viictms of domestic violence is noble and worthy, but what of the frauds, perjurers, and those seeking a fraudulent marriage as their ticket to the USA? Any noble law can and will be subverted by those willing to manipulate it, and must be carefully written to avoid such subversion.

    The immigrant is heard and the citizen is noit? Even a citizen who is the actual victim and holds a valid restraining order to prove it?

    Violence against a spouse is and should be a crime everywhere. But never kid yourself into thinking that marriage fraud and abuse does niot exist because it is ongoing as this is written, or that the noble intentions of any such cause are served by denying the citizen Due Process of Law.

    Anyone claming protection under this act should be able to withstand the scrutiny required to sustain their petition, and abuse of the process must be contemplated as to protections are being promulgated.

    • Gary says:

      As a victim of such a situation, I applaud your understanding. My ‘wife’ tried to set up a fake scene of abuse. The cops not only did not buy it, they wrote in their report that I was the injured party, they found me in my front yard, being chased by her, I was bleeding and battered, she had no injuries what ever. WWith the law in it’s current state, I could not defend myself with USCIS. She was not required to prove evidence. Although I sought an annullment on VAWA fraud, she testified she was never abused and never filed under VAWA. We had a copy of her filing receipt and she swore in court that she did not know anythig about filing.
      There are no fraud provision penalties for false filing. The US citizen is often victimized but is absolutely prohibited from providing evidence (including court transcripts) in this. The Democrat bill is going to make MORE US citizen victims of sham marriages just for a green card. Requireing proof (none is now required) should be in there. The ‘accused’ should be allowed to present evidence (such as court transcripts police repprts etc.) but in the Democrat bill this is not allowed.
      The ideal of VAWA is honorable, the execution is deplorable.
      My ‘ex’ got a visa after 2 and a half years, I know she had no evidence, as every police report (there were multiples) concluded that the reports were all false.
      Unless she chose to give them to USCIS (fat chance) they were inabmissable.

  3. Laura says:

    Having worked with survivors of violence for many years, i can attest that for every one fraudulent case of abuse, there are hundreds of cases of abuse. Every person, regardless of their citizenship, deserves a life free of abuse. It’s a human right. Eliminating provisions in the law to protect victims of violence only sets our efforts back and i believe as Americans i believe we can do better than that.

  4. dwayne says:

    As a retired law enforcement officer and the victim of marriage fraud I can tell you first hand that the system is severly flawed. I was the victim of physical abuse, theft, extorsion and my young children were the victims of theft and severe mental abuse by an immigrant and she was able to use the VAWA laws to get a new apartment, cash assistance. job and will probably getting permanant residence status. There was no violence in the home whatsoever except for her committing it. The only thing she could tell the police is that i refused to pay her electricity bill after I found out about the fraud she was commiting against me. It’s entirely possible I will be forced to pay this woman several thousand dollars a year because of the affadavitt of support that cannot be withdrawn through USICS even though we had a pre-nup. The law needs to be changed so the US Citizen has their right to defend themselves agaist false accusations!!!

  5. Guillermo says:

    Nice article. By the way what is the name of that blog theme?

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