Protect immigrant women from violence
By Leith Anderson and Lynne Hybels, Special to CNN
This week the House of Representatives is considering a proposal to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, first enacted in 1994, but in a new version that would significantly undermine the same U visa program that provided Nicole with safety and permanency in the United States.
The U.S. government estimates that as many as 17,500 foreign-born victims are illegally trafficked in from abroad each year, and academic estimates suggest that at least100,000 victims of human trafficking live in the United States today.
By force, fraud or coercion, traffickers keep victims enslaved in prostitution or forced labor.
Several provisions would leave immigrant victims of human trafficking and domestic abuse no legal way to break the cycle of violence in which they are trapped.
Specifically, this version would remove the incentive of permanent safe haven in the United States for women who help bring abusers to justice. By changing the U visa from permanent to temporary, the bill could validate an abuser's threat that a call to police could result in deportation. Many women would keep quiet rather than risk immigration consequences.
The bill would also allow abusive partners in domestic violence cases to provide input as to whether their victim should qualify for immigration relief, stripping confidentiality provisions that currently protect victims. Abusive spouses, who are in a position to petition to adjust the status of their immigrant wives through marriage, can choose not to do so as a tool of abuse and fear. Abusers frequently deny guilt and falsely accuse victims of fraud or abuse.
We don't want a bill that endangers some of the women and children it purports to help. Overall, this bill's proposed changes to current law would discourage immigrant victims from escaping abuse and reporting crimes, and make all of us less safe.