Immigrant women’s advocates commend passage of Violence Against Women Act
The National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights (NCIWR) commends the Senate’s passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), but expresses concern over the exclusion of critical provisions for immigrant survivors of domestic and sexual violence. While the Senate-approved VAWA bill retains many of the same protections as the bill proposed in the 112th Congress, it does not include the provision increasing the number of U-visas for undocumented immigrants who are survivors of domestic or sexual violence.
Michelle Brané of the Women’s Refugee Commission, a member of NCIWR’s steering committee, states, “We are encouraged by the Senate’s leadership in passing the Violence Against Women Act, but are concerned that needed protections for immigrant survivors were left out of the final bill.” Brané adds, “There is an obvious need for additional U-visas to protect victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and we hope that immigration reform will take seriously the need to ensure the safety of immigrant victims.”
U-visas allow survivors of sexual or domestic violence to petition for temporary legal status and work eligibility without relying on the status of an abusive partner. This opportunity allows undocumented victims, who are often intimidated or threatened into silence by their abusers, to testify against their attackers without fear of being deported.
Senator Leahy (D-VT), who sponsored the bill, has stated that he intends to include the U-visa provision in an immigration policy reform package.
Miriam Yeung, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) and NCIWR steering committee member, comments, “While the President has indicated his support for improving protections for survivors of domestic violence in immigration policy reform, the Senate bipartisan framework for immigration policy reform does not include this consideration and there is no indication from either branch that U-visa expansion is a priority. We urge Congress and the White House to address these unresolved issues immediately.”
Jessica González-Rojas, Executive Director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), also a member of NCIWR’s steering committee, adds, “While the reauthorization of VAWA is long overdue for members of our communities, we remain disappointed that the U-visa increase may not be included in a final VAWA reauthorization. We look forward to working with Congress and the White House to ensure protections for immigrants facing domestic and sexual violence are promptly addressed.”
The National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights is the leading national collaboration to specifically focus on women and gender issues in the public discourse on immigration. The coalition represents more than 70 grassroots and advocacy organizations. For more information about the National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights, please visit http://nciwr.wordpress.com.