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Public Statements

Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mrs. DAVIS of California. Madam Speaker, I am disappointed by the direction the House Majority has taken with this version of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

VAWA is a landmark piece of legislation that has dramatically reduced violence against women and provided states and local communities with additional resources to address crimes against women.

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As such, VAWA reauthorization has in past Congresses gained overwhelming bipartisan support. No matter what side of the aisle we're on, members of Congress have long understood the need to strengthen protections for victims of abuse. Just last month, the Senate passed its own version of VAWA, which garnered a bipartisan vote of 68 31.

And yet here we are today debating a partisan bill that weakens critical protections and fails to protect underserved communities like LGBT victims and Native American women.

A diverse coalition of 164 immigration, faith, labor, civil rights, human rights, and community groups have come together in strong opposition to H.R. 4970, even with the manager's amendments. Their message is clear: H.R. 4970 will set us back years in fighting domestic violence.

At a time when we need to modernize the VAWA to build upon our efforts, this bill would instead roll back existing protections.

This bill would make it much harder for battered immigrant women to leave their abusive relationship by adding unnecessary layers of bureaucracy.

Strong immigrant victim protections have helped countless women, including Maria, who's husband physically abused her and threatened to kill her two children. Without his knowledge, she started a VAWA self-petition process, meeting with an attorney at the Laundromat on her usual laundry day and hiding her paperwork. Repealing immigrant protections and adding red-tape and onerous requirements will endanger the safety of battered immigrants like Maria.

H.R. 4970 would also weaken the U visa program, which has encouraged immigrant victims of crime to report and help prosecute serious criminal activity.

Current law allows U visa recipients to apply to become permanent residents. This bill removes the opportunity of most victims to apply to become permanent residents, thereby discouraging victims from cooperating with local law enforcement as it could lead to deportation.

Strong protections in this area have helped countless immigrant women escape the cycle of domestic abuse and rebuild their lives.

Now, we should have a conversation about how to update VAWA so that MORE women can be served.

We've learned in the past years that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender victims experience domestic violence at the same rate as the general population. Yet, they do not receive the same protections and services they need because of discrimination and lack of training by law enforcement and service providers.

The Senate bill includes important provisions that ensure that services to LGBT victims are explicitly included in VAWA grant problems, as well as bans discrimination against victims based on their sexual orientation.

We have to ask the question as to why these key measures were not included in this regressive bill brought by the House majority.

As a mother and a grandmother, I can not stand by as we roll back decades of progress in protecting women from emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

It is time that we stop playing politics, reject this partisan proposal, and move forward with a bipartisan bill that ensures that all victims of violence are protected.

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