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Ms. VELÁZQUEZ. Madam Speaker, I rise in opposition to this legislation, which is an affront to women, their rights and their safety.
It is worth noting that the Violence Against Women Act was originally passed under a Republican Congress. Its provisions that protect immigrant women passed in 2000 and 2005--again during Republican majorities.
Yet, today, we are voting on legislation that would gut these protections, delivering women seeking help into the hands of their abusers --endangering their safety and their lives.
Immigrant women are disproportionately impacted by domestic violence. One study from New York City found that 51 percent of domestic partner homicide victims were foreign-born. Other research has suggested that, among undocumented Latina women, the rate of battering is as high as 34%.
For immigrant women, there can be language barriers preventing them from seeking help. In many cases, abusers may try to use the threat of deportation to prevent their victims from leaving.
The Violence Against Women Act is designed to help those who are most vulnerable and who need assistance. Instead, the provisions being offered by the Majority, today, would make it harder for those who have been battered to escape abuse and find safety. This legislation weakens confidentiality protections that prevent abusers from knowing their victims are seeking help. Needless, duplicative interviews with DHS would make it harder for those who are abused to secure assistance through the immigration system. The legislation would also make it more difficult for those cooperating with law enforcement to avoid deportation. Collectively, these provisions effectively cut women off from help, making it harder for them to avail themselves of the legal process.
Make no mistake: despite what our Republican colleagues say, these provisions will not reduce immigration fraud. That argument is a red herring. Indeed, there is not one shred of evidence suggesting female immigrants are misusing the Violence Against Women Act.
How can we turn our back on women who need assistance? What kind of a message does it send to pass this legislation? Are we saying to those who suffer abuse they do not ``count'' because they are undocumented?
I say to my colleagues--let us send another message. Reject this legislation. Pass a real Violence Against Women Act that does not divide us by playing politics, but extends help to women who need it.
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