As part of ongoing efforts to educate Congress and the public, LIRS Director for Advocacy Eric B. Sigmon today took part in a press teleconference about the harmful immigration provisions in H.R. 4970, a version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) introduced in the House of Representatives, that would seriously undermine protections for immigrants.
LIRS has been active in raising concerns about the immigration provisions in the bill, and helped bring together a broad cross-section of faith leaders and other organizations to sign a letter urging Congress to “preserve and improve protections for vulnerable immigrant victims.” The House of Representatives is expected to take up the VAWA measure for a vote next week.
The press teleconference, organized by the National Immigration Justice Center, included statements and Q&A with U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9); “Erika,” an immigrant mother who was able to leave her abusive husband thanks to VAWA; Rob Valente, spokesperson, National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence; Rosie Hidalgo, Director of Public Policy, Casa de Esperanza; and Mony Ruiz-Velasco, Director of Legal Services, National Immigrant Justice Center.
You can listen to an audio recording of the event by clicking here. Sigmon’s prepared statement begins at 30:19. His words are also reproduced below:
In times of crisis, victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other forms of violence often turn to religious institutions and faith leaders for support and moral guidance because they see places of worship as a sanctuary from the horrors they have experienced.
Through our programs and ministry with victims, we have learned that abusers often exploit a victim’s immigration status, leaving individuals extremely vulnerable and afraid to report abuse to law enforcement, assist in the prosecution of crimes, and seek services.
The Violence Against Women Act has proven an extremely effective tool in combatting the devastating crimes of domestic violence and providing lifesaving programs and services to individuals like [teleconference participant and immigrant] Erika.
Despite strong bipartisan support in the Senate earlier this year for VAWA legislation that included a handful of protections for immigrant victims, HR 4970, the House of Representatives’ version of the VAWA bill, would roll back provisions in the law that protect battered immigrant women and men.
The House bill would actually leave immigrants more vulnerable—and in some cases—endanger their lives.
To raise our deep concerns with the House bill’s immigration provisions, we partnered with a broad coalition of faith-based organizations and religious leaders, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and the United Methodist Church, to send a letter to Congress.
If the House of Representatives were to pass H.R. 4970, it would dishonor our nation’s legacy of protecting the most vulnerable, undermine progress towards shielding victims from their abusers, and unravel nearly two decades of strong support for protecting immigrant victims of violence.
The House of Representatives should take a deep breath, change course, and revise its Violence Against Women Act bill to ensure that our laws continue to uphold our nation’s proud tradition of protecting vulnerable immigrant victims.
It’s critical that Congress hear from you that the immigration provisions of H.R. 4970 are unacceptable. Congress must pass VAWA legislation that protects immigrant survivors. Please add your voice at the LIRS Action Center and encourage friends and family to do the same!