By Amal Bass, WLP Staff Attorney
On January 23, 2013, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Michael Crapo (R-ID) introduced S. 47, a bill that would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In the U.S. House, Representatives Gwen Moore (D-WI) and John Conyers (D-MI) have introduced H.R. 11, which is identical to S. 47. If passed, these bills will continue vital programs and services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
Originally passed in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000 and 2005, VAWA is a monumental piece of legislation. In 2011-2012, a strong VAWA reauthorization bill passed the Senate, but the House passed a substantially different bill that limited protection for immigrants, Native Americans, and LGBT victims of domestic and sexual violence. The partisan politics at the time derailed VAWA’s reauthorization.
This session, it is vital that Congress reauthorizes VAWA by passing a comprehensive bill that includes protection for all victims of domestic and sexual violence. The bipartisan Leahy-Crapo bill is similar to the bill that passed the Senate in the last session in that it includes enhanced protection and services for tribal, LGBT, and immigrant victims. The current Leahy-Crapo bill does not, however, include a provision that would increase the number of U visas available to immigrant victims of sexual, domestic, and other violence (A U visa offers temporary legal status to victims of certain crimes who assist law enforcement). Senator Leahy’s office has stated that it hopes the concession will “better ensure passage of the Senate VAWA” and has indicated that the Senator is planning to include the U visa provision in separate immigration reform legislation.
Please contact your Senators and Congressional Representative to urge them to support the bipartisan S. 47 and H.R. 11. The health and safety of sexual and domestic violence victims is a high priority and should not be subjected to partisan politics. To call your Senator or Representative, dial 202-224-3121.