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Protection Only for the Few: Do You Qualify?

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Certain women are expendable, at least according to some legislators.

An important piece of legislation, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), is stirring up controversy in its reauthorization. The Senate and House both recently passed versions reauthorizing VAWA with new provisions but, the House's bill significantly abandons the long-standing protections of the past for battered immigrant victims while completely omitting Native American and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) victims. Needless to say, the public outrage is much deserved. The act has received bipartisan support in every reauthorization since its inception, but for the first time in its history, there's significant partisan division.

If passed, the House VAWA bill could leave many marginalized communities defenseless against abusers. It begs the question: are certain groups of women expandable to our leaders?

Senate VAWA bill vs. House VAWA bill
Through the Senate's bill, there are three new provisions:
- help LGBT victims receive domestic-abuse protections,
- provide more U-visas for undocumented women in the United States,
- offer Native American women more protection.

The House took another approach. Their draft strips the extended protections for abused immigrants by creating obstacles to obtain economic assistance and legal options such as the ability to obtain U-visas. Usually, the VAWA allows immigrants an opportunity to petition for residency on their own when their spouses are abusive. These petitions are handled by a group with extensive domestic violence training. Under the House bill, immigrant women would instead be sent to local immigration offices, which often not accessible and could require women to travel hundreds of miles for an unguaranteed interview. The House bill also would require VAWA petitions to be suspended until other related legal cases are resolved.

Mony Ruiz-Velasco, director of legal services at the National Immigrant Justice Center says, "Battered women often suffer in silence because they fear losing their children, their home or their community. The stakes are even higher for abused immigrant women, who fear deportation and permanent separation from their children. Far too often, abusers hold all the power."

The House is sending a clear message about its stance on the well-being of domestic violence survivors: only certain groups should be consulted and only those selected will be protected. All survivors of violence deserve equal support and absolutely no group should be left out of receiving lawful protections.

I encourage you to reach out to your legislators to make sure that the safety of all women is protected.