Chairman Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) amendment to assist immigrant women who are victims of domestic violence obtain work visas was approved Monday during the Judiciary Committee's consideration of bipartisan immigration reform legislation. Leahy, the lead author of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA), cheered the Committee's bipartisan support for his amendment.
"The ability to work is particularly important for survivors of these crimes," said Leahy, whose amendment passed unanimously. "Abusers often exploit the financial dependence of their victims as a way of controlling them."
Currently victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and other crimes are forced to wait up to 18 months to obtain a work authorization while their immigration applications are being processed. Such a long period without financial resources place survivors in a very vulnerable position and can make leaving a dangerous situation more difficult. Leahy's amendment would support these survivors by requiring the Department of Homeland Security DHS to provide work authorization to victims within 180 days of filing their application.
"Without a work authorization, it can be very difficult for an immigrant victim to leave a dangerous situation," Leahy said. "She may have no money for her housing or food, forcing her to choose between a violent home and living on the street. She may face difficulty proving to a family court judge that she can provide for her children if there is a custody dispute."
Leahy's amendment builds on his important work earlier this year with the passage of enactment of the Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which provides vital protections to many underserved groups including immigrants. The VAWA reauthorization bill signed into law in March also included an extension of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPRA), another Leahy-authored measure which supports law enforcement's ability to investigate human trafficking crimes domestically and efforts to address the issue of trafficking abroad.