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Violence Against Women Act Of 2011 Update

Introduced on Nov. 30, 2011 the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) of 2011, S. 1925, would reauthorize the original bill enacted in 1994.

Provisions in S. 1925 have expanded protections from the last reauthorization bill in 2005. However, the Senate Judiciary Committee mark-up on Feb. 2 removed many of the provisions that would have helped immigrants, such as streamlining the process for immigrants on employment authorization.

NETWORK is supporting this bill because of the tremendous protections it offers for victims of domestic violence. Previously, we withheld our initial support to ensure that the changes made in the mark-up did not cause harm to the immigrant community. We focused and analyzed two removed provisions:

  • The provision increasing “U” Visas from 10,000 to 15,000 was replaced with the recaptured number from FY 2006-2011. This means if the 10,000 “U” Visa limit was not reached, the difference could be used the following year. Yet since VAWA’s passage, the amount of applicants for “U” Visas has increased and the limit was reached in 2010 and 2011. With reporting of domestic violence having increased by 51 percent since VAWA originally passed in 1994, it is troubling that the amount of visas has not increased.
  • VAWA Self-Petitioners and “U” visa applicants could be granted work authorization by the Secretary of DHS 180 days after filing rather than waiting for the application to be approved, allowing those to provide for their families despite delays in the immigration system.

However, there are also a number of changes from the 2005 reauthorization we find encouraging. “U” visa applicants can now self-petition for residency if they provide testimony for the prosecution.  The language of the bill is also more inclusive of all members of society, protecting all demographics affected by victims of domestic violence.

At NETWORK, our focus now is to ensure additional amendments do not put additional hardships on immigrants.