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Renewal of the Violence Against Women Act

On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted 17-15 to renew the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, that protects abused women and which expired last year. The VAWA was intended, in part, to protect victims of domestic violence from the manipulation of their immigration status by their attackers. The threat of deportation kept many victims from contacting law enforcement or other sources of protection.

The Senate’s version S. 1925 continues with the same level of protections, even expanding some protections, whereas the House H.R. 4970 proposed amendments will reduce protections for women. Reducing the confidentiality provisions is meant to provide the government with as much information as possible to combat alleged fraud, but critics cite the disincentive provided to victims in what is naturally a frightening and destabilizing situation. The proposed bill also eliminates the possibility to transfer from a U-visa status to lawful permanent resident status. By providing only temporary legal status, victims may be forced to return to their home countries where abuse protections may be less stringent, and often times where their attackers live after having been deported from the US.

There have been cases where abuse victims call the police for assistance and are arrested alongside their attackers, fingerprinted and under Secure Communities, ICE enforcement agents may initiate deportation proceedings against the out of status victim. The combination of Secure Communities’ harm on community policing and any diminishing of VAWA protections would likely have the overall effect of discouraging victims of domestic violence from reporting their abuse.

Vanessa Arno is currently a 2nd year law student at Seattle University School of Law focusing on immigration and international law; she is not yet an attorney.

Vanessa’s contributions to the The Law Office of André Olivie BLOG provide general information only and are not to be considered legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice regarding the issues discussed above or any other immigration related issue please contact Attorney, Andre Olivie at (206) 724-1940