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Background

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was enacted in 1994 as Title IV of H.R.3355, and it has a long history of uniting lawmakers with the common purpose of protecting survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Congress has reauthorized the law in 2000 and 2005, each time with broad, bipartisan support and with improvements to better address the needs and improve access to services for victims. Over the years, Congress has consistently recognized the vulnerability of noncitizen victims of violence and has therefore enacted provisions in VAWA that enhance safety for victims and their children and provide important tools for law enforcement to investigate and prosecute crimes.

VAWA has always included special protections for immigrant survivors of domestic violence, recognizing that the abusers of immigrant victims often use their victims’ lack of immigration status as a tool for abuse, leaving the victim afraid to seek services or report the abuse to law enforcement.

Special Protections for Immigrant Survivors in VAWA

In 1994, VAWA “self-petitioning” was created to assist those victims married to U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident abusive spouses, who use their control over the victims’ immigration status as a tool of abuse (either failing to petition for them leaving victims without legal status or threatening to withdraw it).

In 2000, the U visa was created as a law enforcement tool, to encourage victims to come out of the shadows to report crimes to law enforcement and to protect victims who cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of relevant crimes. To be eligible for a U visa, victims must obtain law enforcement certification demonstrating that they have assisted in a criminal investigation or prosecution. Likewise, the T visa was created to help victims of human trafficking and to gain their help in turn with investigations and prosecutions of traffickers.

In 2005, the “International Marriage Broker Regulation Act” was enacted to regulate the “mail-order bride” industry and make changes to the process by which Americans petition to sponsor visas for foreign fiancé(e)s and spouses to protect against abuse and exploitation.

Congress has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to these provisions in each reauthorization of VAWA, reflecting bipartisan recognition that domestic violence is a serious crime and public safety issue that cannot be fully addressed if all victims are not safe and all perpetrators are not held accountable.


PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION
February 28, 2013

COMPREHENSIVE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT (VAWA) RECEIVES BIPARTISAN APPROVAL IN HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

286-138 Vote Reaffirms Congress’s Commitment to Combating Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault 

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives brought the Senate passed bipartisan Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization bill (VAWA) to the floor and voted 286 to 138 in favor of passage. The success of the bill, which has now passed both the House and Senate, reflects Congress’s commitment to combating domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in a comprehensive manner.

This bipartisan legislation, which will now go to the President for his signature, improves VAWA programs and strengthens protections for all victims of violence.  In particular the bill reflects an important commitment to improve protections for Native American victims, immigrants, and LGBT victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.  The legislation also includes the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).

Casa de Esperanza has worked hard to secure the passage of a comprehensive VAWA bill through the policy advocacy efforts of its national initiative – the National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities. Casa de Esperanza worked, in collaboration with other national organizations, to ensure the passage of VAWA with the inclusion and improvement of essential remedies for immigrant victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and the improvement of grant programs targeting enhanced culturally and linguistically specific service for Communities of Color.

“Today’s vote represents a victory for all victims of domestic violence,” said Amy Sanchez, Casa de Esperanza Chief Executive for External Relations, “Together, Casa de Esperanza and other national organizations are celebrating the bill’s bipartisan approval and an optimistic future.”

The Leahy (D-VT)-Crapo (R-ID) VAWA reauthorization passed the Senate two weeks ago with the support of 78 Senators, including all Democrats, all women Senators and a majority of Republican Senators. The bill also had the backing of 1300 organizations who signed a letter to Congress asking for a bipartisan and comprehensive VAWA bill with protections for all victims.. Today’s favorable vote in the House of Representatives on a bipartisan version of the bill is largely a result of the continued efforts of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, where Casa de Esperanza serves on the Steering Committee.

“We are celebrating that Congress was able to come together in a bipartisan manner, in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, to enhance our nation’s commitment to ending domestic violence and sexual assault, with a special emphasis on improving protections for marginalized communities,” said Rosie Hidalgo, Casa de Esperanza’s Director of Public Policy, “and we look forward to continuing to support the implementation of these programs.”

The bipartisan support throughout Congress sends a clear message that the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act and the related issues are above political divides. Despite today’s favorable vote, violence against women remains a critical problem in our nation. Casa de Esperanza will continue to passionately support improved prevention and intervention programs for victims of domestic and sexual violence and their families and will continue to advocate for legislation that does the same.

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More Resources:

Click here to read the report, Latina Portrait: The Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and Latinas, by the National Latin@ Network and Mujeres Latinas en Acción (pdf)

Click here to read Important Protections for Immigrant Victims in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 – S. 47 (pdf)

Visit The National Taskforce to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women's website to get up to date information and calls to action.

More resources related to legislation history and advocacy efforts:

Click here to read VAWA Reauthorization 2012