The House Republican version of the new Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) would dramatically rollback confidentiality protections for abused immigrant women, make it more difficult for undocumented witnesses to work with law enforcement officials, and eliminate a pathway to citizenship for witnesses who cooperate with police on criminal cases.
Specifically, this is what they would eliminate:
In 1994, VAWA addressed a problem faced by abused immigrant women who are married to citizens or legal residents. In some cases, husbands would use their control over their victims’ immigration status as a tool of abuse, refusing to sign the proper paperwork or threatening to revoke it. The act created a “self-petitioning” process that allows such women to confidentially apply for protected immigration status on their own. Protections for immigrant women have been strengthened in subsequent reauthorizations of the bill.
That process is managed by a specific branch of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services based in Vermont, where officials are highly trained in secrecy and in dealing with domestic violence situations. Extreme precautions are taken to assure that the victim’s identity or action is not revealed to the abuser, for obvious reasons.
The GOP claims that undocumented immigrant women are gaming the system by pretending to be abused, which sounds roughly as plausible as an epidemic of voter fraud. And as with voter fraud, Republicans are seizing upon the misbehavior of an imaginary few to punish the very real many. Only instead of being unable to vote, these women will be trapped in the living hell of an abusive relationship with no legal recourse. Shame on domestic abuse survivor Sandy Adams for sponsoring this cruel bill – her capacity for empathy would fit in a hamster’s thimble.
I think the GOP’s ultimate dream is to make all crimes against undocumented immigrants legal. It probably stems from a combination of atavistic hatred with the hope that declaring open season will induce them to “self-deport,” but probably a lot more of the former than the latter.