The landmark federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has provided a comprehensive approach to domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking for the past 18 years. However, H.R.
4970, the bill introduced by Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) that reauthorized VAWA in the House of Representatives on May 16, 2012, strips away life-saving protections and services needed by vulnerable
immigrant victims of violence and places them at further risk of harm.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) continues to advocate that the purpose of VAWA has always been focused on protecting victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking, rather than to serve as an immigration policy measure.
VAWA in its current form since the 2005 reauthorization recognizes that abusers of undocumented immigrants often exploit victim’s immigration status and fear of seeking services or reporting abuses to law enforcement. The current VAWA therefore protects the confidentiality of both the identities and statements of all victims and witnesses of domestic violence who report abusers to police. However, the House’s version of the VAWA reauthorization bill, which the White House has threatened to veto, would eliminate this privacy protection for any victim or witness who is in the United States without documentation, as well as penalizing cooperative witnesses by cutting back on paths to citizenship and the issuance of visas.
“To exclude some victims of domestic violence and other crimes from the protections offered by the Violence Against Women Act because they are undocumented immigrants is unacceptable and un-American,” said Ivy Suriyopas, Anti-Trafficking Initiative staff attorney at AALDEF. “Our legal system exists to ensure that criminals are brought to justice, not to punish victims.”
Letters to House of Representatives opposing H.R. 4970 (May 17, 2012); (May 14th, 2012); (May 4, 2012)
Letter Urging Governor Cuomo to express his strong opposition to H.R. 4970 (May 17, 2012)
Image: Rae Allen/Flickr