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Mr. REYES. Madam Speaker, I rise today in strong opposition to H.R. 4970, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. This controversial bill would weaken long-standing protections and fails to protect the most vulnerable victims of violence.
Last month, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Instead of supporting the bipartisan Senate bill, House Republicans introduced a dangerous partisan bill that rolls back many vital protections for battered women and shifts the power into the hands of abusers. This bill fails to protect battered immigrant spouses legally here, diminishes protections for the LGBT community, and neglects challenges facing Native American victims. It is a slap in the face to victims and those who have worked tirelessly to protect them.
One out of every four women in the United States is physically assaulted by an intimate partner and more than 740,000 children and youth are treated in hospital emergency departments as a result of violence each year--more than 84 every hour. In Texas, last year the number of family violence fatalities increased 28 percent from 2010. In El Paso, Texas according to the El Paso Police Department, police responded to 200 reports of sexual assault and 4,500 domestic violence cases just last year.
These numbers indicate the severity of a widespread problem that can have devastating social and health-related consequences and this bill will only weaken the confidentiality provisions for victims seeking protection from further violence. This bill reverses the ``U'' visa program that encourages immigrant victims of crime to report and help prosecute serious criminal activity and now will create obstacles for those seeking to report crimes. Now immigrant victims will be far less likely to share potentially valuable information with police that could help solve crimes and prosecute offenders.
Republicans in the House should drop their misguided attempt to undermine the Violence Against Women Act that puts the safety and security of women at risk and instead should reauthorize and strengthen the existing program, as the Senate has already done. House Republicans should be ashamed of politicizing such an important issue and for attempting to roll back longstanding bipartisan protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual violence.
As the National Organization for Women has stated, this bill ``disregards the biases and disrespect that certain victims face when seeking help from the criminal justice system and access to lifesaving services, effectively giving second-class treatment to Native American, immigrant women, and LGBT victims. The bill smacks of willful ignorance of the problem and hostility to people deemed not to be `true' victims.'' I fully support this statement because the fact of the matter is, violence is violence, regardless of who the victim is.
As a husband, father, and grandfather to four wonderful women, this issue is very important to me. If there is any issue where we should all agree, it is to help stop domestic and sexual violence, and to protect all victims. This should not be a political issue, but a matter of protecting those whom are most vulnerable. I strongly urge my colleagues to oppose this partisan measure.
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