Two bills up for consideration by Congress neatly coincide with October's status as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, one that advocates are cheering and another that would impede justice for victims.
The American Independent reported that an immigration enforcement act called the Hinder the Administration Legalization Temptation Act (HALT), would impose penalties on immigrants who claimed abuse. Sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), one provision of the law would force immigration officials to deport illegal immigrants who claimed they were victims of domestic violence. After reporting the crime, the person would be detained because of their illegal status. They could still receive legal help, but being in detention further complicates and hinders their case against their abuser.
Sarah Van Hofwegen, an attorney for Americans for Immigrant Justice, told the American Independent that HALT would be detrimental to immigrants' rights.
"HALT would create an even bigger climate of fear for immigrants," she said.
"People will be less willing to report crimes against them for fear of ending up in custody," Van Hofwegen said. "I think there a lot of immigrant women who are victims of crime and are not getting the service they need and are not reporting the crimes against them."
Another domestic violence bill long praised by advocates, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), is up for congressional reauthorization.
VAWA has been law for 15 years, and provides specific protections for people who claim they suffered abuse by a permanent U.S. resident or citizen.
Advocacy groups support the reauthorization of VAWA. The National Network to End Domestic Violence said the Act "should be swiftly reauthorized to ensure the continuation of these vital, lifesaving programs and laws."
Creative Commons image via flickr user loungerie