The Republican-backed HR4970 which seeks to amend the Violence Against Woman Act (VAWA) has raised the eyebrows of some immigrant advocacy groups that claim these provisions would set back the safeguards and protections for abused immigrant women, men and children.
They also take issue against provisions which would make it harder for undocumented people to work with law enforcement as well as eliminate the pathway to citizenship for those who cooperate with the police on investigating abuse and criminal cases.
"It's part of the anti-immigrant movement," said Michelle Ortiz, director of Lucha Project an organization that represents victims of domestic abuse and domestic violence.
If approved, the provisions would amend the bill that was singed into law 1994 by President Bill Clinton.
The bill is headed to the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. It is sponsored by congresswoman Sandy Adams (R-FL).
Lisa Boothe, communication director for Rep. Adams said the claims made by immigrant advocates are incorrect.
“The House’s reauthorization of VAWA ensures that victims are the recipients of the resources, not fraudulent claimants. In order to prevent a cycle of domestic violence, this legislation requires that the immigrant seeking a U-visa must report crimes within 60 days,” she said.
Section 806 would eliminate the pathway to citizenship after the four-year protection period afforded under VAWA expires.
“This provision is designed to make certain that the investigative trail that police need to solve a crime does not disappear. The goal is to diminish the likelihood of fraudulent claims, while still ensuring the victim’s safety because their whereabouts are never disclosed. Part of preventing domestic violence is ensuring that offenders don’t have the opportunity to enter into violent acts in the future,” she added.
Ortiz, who is affiliated with Americans for Immigrants Justice, formerly Florida Immigration Advocacy Center, reiterated that the provisions are unnecessary and while the provisions cover a wide scope of things with regards to the law, her main concern are the steps taken to restrict immigrants from receiving the law’s intended benefit.
She described these steps as "setbacks."
"My hope is that the voices of actual victims and the people who work with them everyday are heard," she said.
Ortiz, whose clients are 85 percent Hispanic, referred to her Huffington Post column to highlight some examples of how the current provisions would devastate the rights of immigrants.
She alleges that the reauthorization of VAWA is usually a bipartisan effort that hardly encounters opposition or challenging provisions.
"This is the fist time since 1994 that proposals have become a partisan issues were instead of continuing to prospect immigrants legislators have proposed to strip these rights," she said.
The National Immigration Justice Center said that the law was a safeguard to protect immigrants, survivors of domestic abuse recognizing that the abusers often exploit the victim' immigrants status to discourage them from seeking services or report a violent crime made against them.
Under VAWA, victims were provided a confidential way to file for residency without having to depend on their abusers to legalize their status.
The Center also takes aim at section 802 stating in a document that it imposes “arbitrary and unreasonable barriers for victims” when seeking U-Visas.
HR 4970, would also eliminate confidentiality and require women to be interviewed by authorities. It would allow the officer to informed the abuser that the victim is applying for immigration status.
With regards to the claim that this provisions are meant to get rid of fraud and people seeking to abuse the system, Ortiz said, such claim hasn't been proven successfully.
"I think that under this political climate immigrants have become scapegoats," Ortiz said.
"[Supporters say] it's to prevent fraud, but there has been no evidence of this people committing fraud".