Congresswoman Schakowsky delivered these remarks on a call with reporters and others last week. Her comments are reprinted here with permission.
I want to thank the National Immigrant Justice Center and the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence for organizing this very important call this morning.
I appreciate the particular focus on the VAWA provisions that protect battered immigrant women – one of the most vulnerable of the vulnerable populations in our country.
Ensuring that immigrant women are able to leave their abusers and aren’t forced to stay because of threats of deportation, or because they are afraid to come out of the shadows has been a long-time focus of mine.
During past VAWA reauthorizations, I have gotten provisions to stop the deportation of eligible immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking included, as well as a provision to allow battered immigrant self-petitioners to receive their lawful permanent residency status in the U.S. without having to travel abroad.
I have introduced – along with Representative Judy Chu – the Violence Against Immigrant Women Act (H.R. 5331). Our bill would streamline the processing of VAWA cases and make adjustments to help victims escape from their abusers and overcome the effects of victimization. Our bill would ensure greater numbers of immigrant victims of domestic violence and sexual assault receive U visa protection, and it would allow victims of stalking, elder abuse, and child abuse to access these important protections. It would also require DHS to issue employment authorization to victims in timely manner. Because of delays, the majority of immigrant victims who have filed valid cases are forced to wait more than six months for work authorization, some can wait as long as a year.
Unfortunately, for the first time in VAWA’s history it appears as though we will not have a bipartisan reauthorization bill.
House Republicans have drafted and plan to advance – next week – a purely partisan reauthorization bill – with little to no input from Democrats, service providers, law enforcement agencies, and prosecutors on the front lines.
Since 1994, VAWA has strengthened communities and provided critical, life-saving support to victims of violence. VAWA has helped millions of victims move from crisis to stability and has saved taxpayers millions in averted societal costs.
Domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking affect at least one in four women and touch the lives of children exposed to violence.
VAWA reauthorization must continue the fight to protect all victims – including immigrants, Native Americans and members of the LGBT community – and their families from the fear of violence.
The Senate passed a bipartisan VAWA reauthorization bill (S. 1925) by a vote 68-31 on April 26, 2012. Every woman in the Senate voted for the bill which would further strengthen and improve programs authorized under VAWA – we are talking about critical programs to assist victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
I am a cosponsor of H.R. 4271, legislation that closely aligns with the Senate bill. Unfortunately, House Republicans are advancing a different bill – H.R. 4970, the Cantor-Adams proposal which would undermine the core principles of VAWA. The Judiciary Committee approved H.R. 4970 on May 8th – every Democrat on the Committee and one Republican, Rep. Ted Poe, opposed the bill.
H.R. 4970 would weaken important VAWA improvements contained in both H.R. 4271 and S. 1925, including provisions to increase the safety of immigrant and Native American women and the LGBT community. Additionally, H.R 4970 would roll back and destroy years of progress to protect the safety of immigrant women and create more obstacles for these victims to report crimes.
H.R. 4970 is not VAWA – it goes against the intent of VAWA which is to protect victims – if anything, this bill will only make it worse for victims.
I do not support this legislation. I will urge my colleagues to oppose it.