DV Organizations Urge Immigration Reform
July 2, 2014
NNEDV is proud to join with over 300 national, state, and local organizations committed to ending domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking to urge the US House of Representatives to move forward with passage of an immigration reform bill. Congress has an opportunity, through immigration reform, to fix a broken system that leaves millions of undocumented women and children extremely vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, both at home and in the workplace, and isolated from seeking help. It has been a year since the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill (S. 744), which includes a pathway to legal status and work authorization for millions of individuals, an increase in the U visa cap for victims of crime, better oversight of foreign labor recruiters, and many other significant improvements in protections for immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. We are deeply concerned that without House leadership and support, this term of Congress will come to an end without much needed immigration reform.
The commitment to improve prevention and intervention efforts on behalf of all survivors was affirmed and enhanced by Congress with the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 2013. When VAWA was first enacted in 1994, Congress recognized that immigration status can often be used as a tool of abuse. Abusive partners and opportunistic predators often exploit a victim's lack of immigration status, or dependent immigration status, as a way to maintain power and control, increase fear, and keep victims silent. For this reason,
every version of VAWA has included and enhanced limited special remedies targeted to helping immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking.
While the VAWA immigration remedies are important, they reach a limited number of individuals and are only available after the abuse has occurred, only if the survivor is able to access services and support to pursue these remedies, and only if the survivor meets the narrow criteria. Immigration reform that provides a pathway to legal status and work authorization will significantly enhance prevention and intervention efforts, by providing an opportunity for millions of immigrants to pursue a pathway to safety, stability, and economic self-sufficiency for themselves and their children.
Additionally, efforts to repair the immigration system should not drive victims further into the shadows. Numerous law enforcement leaders and associations, including the Major Cities Chiefs Association, have spoken out against any congressional action that would require state and local law enforcement agencies to engage in federal immigration enforcement. Both law enforcement and victim-advocates have repeatedly raised serious concerns about any such engagement, including among other things, that it would result in fear and distrust of local police, undermine community policing, drive victims further into the shadows, and divert scarce and critical resources away from their core mission.
As our nation seeks to improve efforts to prevent and end domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking, it is important to make sure that our policies do not have the unintended consequence of increasing danger for victims and decreasing their access to justice. It is imperative for Congress to work in a bipartisan manner to pass immigration reform that can help strengthen our nation's commitment to improve prevention efforts and help all survivors.
See the full list of organizations that signed on to the letter via Casa de Esperanza: The National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities.