Instead of moving forward on the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that passed the Senate by a vote of 68 to 31, the House Judiciary Committee led by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) passed a GOP version of the bill on Tuesday night that weakens VAWA and limits protections. While this legislation has historically been saved from ideology and partisanship, this year, as Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) explains, GOP leaders are using the legislation as a political prop. From CQ:
[Biggert] said the Adams legislation is cosponsored by almost all other female House Republicans because “leadership wanted the women to do that.”
Just how bad is the House Republican version? Well one group lobbying the GOP to restrict provisions helping immigrant victims of violence employs the president of an “international matchmaking company” who has a history of covering up domestic abuse claims. In fact, the House Republican bill rolls back protections that were created and extended in previous VAWA laws for some of the most vulnerable in our country–the Huffington Post:
The House Republican version of the new Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) would dramatically roll back confidentiality protections for abused immigrant women, make it more difficult for undocumented witnesses to work with law enforcement officials, and eliminate a pathway to citizenship for witnesses who cooperate with police on criminal cases.
In addition to hurting undocumented victims, the House Republican bill also removes key provisions from the bipartisan Senate-passed bill improving protections to Native American women and ensuring all victims are assisted regardless of religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
Here’s what advocates for millions of Americans have to say about the GOP bill:
The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, a coalition representing thousands of organizations, service providers, researchers, educators, religious leaders, law enforcement, advocacy groups and victims all across the nation, continues to have grave concerns about this legislation that contains punitive provisions that will harm victims and exclude key communities.
It weakens or deletes entirely some of the vital improvements in the Senate bill, including the strong provisions that are designed to increase the safety of Native women and the needs of the LGBT community. The bill also contains extremely dangerous provisions that would jeopardize the safety and often the lives of immigrant victims seeking to report crimes by eliminating important confidentiality protections, undermining effective anti-fraud protections, and rolling back years of progress to protect the safety of immigrant victims. Finally, it grows excessive and costly bureaucracy that will divert resources which could be used for victim services.
This VAWA reauthorization bill is fundamentally flawed and ignores key priorities identified by service providers and victim advocates.
The bill imposes cruel new reporting restrictions on immigrant survivors of violence — eliminating confidentiality, putting victims in grave danger and empowering abusers. These provisions would be thrown out if the cases involved legal residents or citizens. Frankly, this second class treatment of women of color smacks of willful ignorance of the problem and hostility toward the victims.
“This bill is a direct roll back of VAWA laws,” said Rocio Mollina of the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project at American University. “It fails to protect victims that are vulnerable, that are too traumatized, too scared to report and who face barriers.”
Before the Cantor/Adams bill, VAWA Reauthorization legislation, ever since it first passed in 1994, has always expanded coverage and services for the purpose of reducing violence. This is the first time a VAWA bill has been approved that narrows or restricts protections.
Instead of punishing women and victims of assault, House Republicans should bring the bipartisan Senate bill—which passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 68-31—for a House vote immediately.