House bill would make visas for undocumented abuse victims contingent on testimony of abuser
For the past several weeks, Congressional Republicans have been attempting to obstruct the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act because they object to its addition of protections for immigrants, Native Americans, and members of the LGBT community.
The law was initially passed in 1994 and was renewed by unanimous consent in 2000 and 2005. However, the version of the bill supported by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives not only strips out those added protections but adds language that could endanger undocumented immigrants by allowing officials to discuss their claims of abuse with the alleged abuser.
Undocumented victims of domestic abuse currently have the right to petition for a temporary “U Visa.” The version of the bill passed last week by the Senate would expand the available number of such visas, but the House version (pdf) drafted by Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) not only deletes that provision but inserts a new one that explicitly deprives undocumented victims’ of their right to confidentiality.
It reads, “During the adjudication of each petition under this paragraph, an investigative officer from a local service center of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services shall conduct an in-person interview of the alien who filed the petition. The investigative officer may also gather other evidence and interview other witnesses, including the accused United States citizen or lawful permanent resident, if they consent to be interviewed.”
American Progress further notes that the Adams version of the bill “would also eliminate the provision in current law that authorizes victims with temporary U-visas to receive permanent protection through green cards.”
Undocumented abuse victims are already likely to avoid calling the police for fear of deportation., and this new provision would make their situation more desperate by potentially informing an abuser of a victim’s complaint. It might even make it possible for an abuser to prevent a victim from gaining a U visa altogether.
The House bill was referred to committee on April 27 and has not yet been reported out.