HRI has been closely watching the developments as Congress attempts to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) which is the basis of the protections afforded to HRI’s immigrant victims of domestic violence (VAWA) and violent crime (U Visa).
On April 26, the Senate passed an extension of VAWA that strengthens protections for all victims regardless of immigration status. On May 16, the House of Representatives passed a bill that is different from the Senate version and seriously damages certain protections afforded to immigrant victims of domestic violence and serious crimes.
Today, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act remains in limbo.
Generally, once the House and the Senate each pass a version of a bill, members of both houses join in a conference committee to reconcile any differences. However, because of a procedural technicality the House has refused to bring the VAWA Reauthorization to conference.
On Tuesday, a bi-partisan Senate duo urged House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to remove the politics from this important issue. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) urged Speaker Boehner to honor the bipartisan history of the Violence Against Women Act and to vote on the Senate version. The Senators wrote, “We should not let politics pick and choose which victims of abuse to help and which to ignore.”
More delay means more innocent victims without much-needed protections.
The Senators expressed that “every day, abusive partners kill three women, and for every victim killed there are nine more who narrowly escape. It would be unacceptable to step away from our commitment to stopping violence and abuse, and from seeking justice for victims, by undermining VAWA’s protections.”
Speaker Boehner refused the senators’ request to bring the Senate extension of VAWA to the House floor for an up or down vote. Speaker Boehner’s spokesperson said, however, that the House was ready to begin conference negotiations.
In an email to Bill Holston, Director of HRI, Congressman Sam Johnson (R-Texas) said that a conference committee on VAWA has been created. However, reports do not yet indicate the status of the conference committee.