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Immigrants could be affected by revised version of VAWA

Immigrants in North Carolina and around the country face a number of challenges. Some face the additional obstacle of being in an abusive relationship, but the Violence Against Women Act has provided them with some protection. The Act is up for renewal, and both chambers of Congress have passed competing versions of the Act, but they are vastly different and have distinctly disparate effects on immigrants in this country. The Senate version would increase the protections currently available to immigrants, while the House rendition would curtail a number of provisions of the law that protect immigrants who are the victims of domestic violence.

To name only two, the House bill would no longer allow immigrant victims to obtain a visa for special residency or later petition the government to become a permanent resident. The government currently offers these benefits to immigrant victims so that they have additional incentives to help law enforcement investigations. In addition, the House would no longer provide anonymity to immigrant victims who are seeking visas for residency. Anonymity precludes a victim's abuser from interfering with the immigration visa process.

The vote in the Senate was bipartisan, but the House's bill passed largely along party lines. There were 23 Republicans who voted against the proposed legislation, however. According to one lawmaker, the House bill demonstrated "an indifference to the suffering of some . . . that is as chilling and callous as anything I have seen in this chamber in modern times." The President has stated that he would veto the House's bill because it removes a number of prior safeguards for immigrants.

The Violence Against Women Act is an important tool that can help immigrants leave violent relationships while guarding their immigration status. The Act was passed in 1994 and has been renewed twice since then.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Violence Against Women Act loses some safeguards in House vote," Brian Bennett, May 17, 2012.

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