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It’s painful to watch.
Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL), a victim of domestic violence, has let herself become the spokesperson for the grievously flawed and dangerous Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passed by House Republicans. But asserting that “VAWA must protect all victims,” as Adams does in a new op-ed in The Hill, isn’t enough. Her bill has to actually do so.
Protecting all victims has been the premise of VAWA for twenty years. But the GOP bill doesn’t do that. Even Adams admits that the GOP bill weakens protections for Native Americans, the LGBT community and immigrants. That’s NOT providing protection for “all” victims.
Finally, the Senate-passed bill disregards the fact that some immigration programs historically included in VAWA reauthorization legislation have been subject to fraud and abuse. The House-passed legislation allows illegal immigrants who apply for and receive a U-visa to stay in the United States to get the care and resources they need after being victimized by a criminal, while at the same time ensuring that the illegal immigrant works with law enforcement officials and prosecutors to put their perpetrators in jail.
However, the bill does not give them the right to permanent residence, unless the perpetrators of the crimes against them are aliens, are convicted of the crime, and are deported to the U-visa holders’ home country. Under these new requirements, the U-visa will no longer grant amnesty to illegal immigrants simply because they claim to have been the victim of a crime. My bill also guarantees the confidentiality of a self-petitioning immigrant who has been abused, and unlike the Senate bill, strengthens anti-fraud protections to ensure that victims – instead of perpetrators of fraud – receive the resources and benefits they need.
“Fraud and abuse” and “amnesty” are the well-worn talking points used by anti-immigrant legislators every time they want to block legislation that treats immigrants like human beings. And here’s the dirty little secret behind the House VAWA bill (something that isn’t so secret): the House Republicans’ immigration provisions were pushed by a so-called men’s rights group and an organization linked to the mail-order bride industry—NOT the numerous organizations working with survivors of domestic abuse and assault every day.
As I’ve pointed out before, all the major women’s and domestic violence prevention groups are appalled at and opposed to the House Republicans’ version of “VAWA.” This legislation has historically been bipartisan. If there’s one thing I thought we could all agree on, it’s that victims of domestic violence deserve protection, support, justice, and a way out. Adams writes “The bottom line is that the best approach for dealing with VAWA is to ensure that all victims of abuse have access to care.”
The bipartisan Senate bill will do that. The House GOP bill, which she is stumping for, will not.