Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee marked up the Violence Against Women’s Reauthorization Act (VAWA) of 2011 (S. 1925). Despite passing with broad, bipartisan support in both 2000 and 2005, the Senate Judiciary Committee only approved the VAWA of 2011 after a 10-8 party-line vote. All Democrats voted in favor of the bill while all Republicans voted against the bill.
Introduced by Senator Leahy (D-VT), the VAWA of 2011 would close gaps in current laws and policies to aid law enforcement in prosecuting serious crimes, protecting migrant victims of crimes, and reducing rape and sexual assault in federal detention. While LIRS is pleased that Congress is making progress to reauthorize the VAWA law, the opposition to this bipartisan bill that would protect vulnerable people is troubling.
The original draft of the VAWA bill included a provision for an additional 5,000 visas annually to protect immigrant witnesses of crimes who assist law enforcement and prosecutors in going after dangerous criminals. Despite the clear value this program provides to community safety and immigrants who may otherwise be too scared to come forward, the Committee watered down the provision to appease some members.
Senator Grassley (R-IA) also successfully amended the bill with an unrelated provision that further criminalizes immigrants. Instead of focusing on tying the hands of immigration officials and requiring the detention of more immigrants, the government should examine cases to determine whether immigrants need to be jailed or if they could be released into an alternative program while attending their immigration hearings. Immigration detention costs taxpayers more than $2 billion a year, a hefty price tag that should push Congress to explore less expensive options instead of expanding detention guidelines.
The bill still has a long road to travel before becoming law, and LIRS will continue advocating to ensure the final VAWA legislation helps law enforcement prosecute serious crimes while preventing rape in detention facilities and protecting migrant victims of crime.
Please visit the LIRS Action Center and tell your elected officials that you support compassionate immigration policies.