VAWA passage stands as a victory for immigrants

In a rare moment, the U.S. Congress took a positive step forward for the country today. The House of Representatives approved the Violence Against Women Act, sending it to President Barack Obama’s desk for signature. (The Senate had already passed the bill, 78-22, and 87 Republicans joined 199 Democrats to pass the bill in the House today.)

Obama and Democrats admirably held their ground on this important issue. The 2013 VAWA included some new provisions — like protection for LGBT individuals, Native Americans and undocumented immigrants. House Republicans actually proposed their own version of VAWA, deleting the provisions from the Senate version that gave tribal authorities jurisdiction to prosecute cases, protected LGBT individuals and allowed undocumented immigrant survivors of domestic violence to seek legal status. The GOP version failed to pass, getting 166 “yea” votes and 257 “nay.”

It’s disturbing that Republicans would want to weaken VAWA, but I’ll get to that later. Now, undocumented immigrants won’t have to fear deportation if they report domestic violence to their police authorities. The bill would allow undocumented immigrants to receive a U visa, a temporary visa that allows immigrant victims of serious crimes to remain in the United States to assist law enforcement officers.

With an issue as damaging as domestic violence, it’s unconscionable that some Republicans would want to merely stay with the status quo. Republicans may believe that LGBT individuals and undocumented immigrants should not receive the full rights of others, but one would think that they would at least agree that they deserve protection if they are victims of violence or discrimination. Democratic Representative Gwen Moore, herself a rape survivor, said in reference to LGBT people, Native Americans and undocumented immigrants on the House floor, “Ain’t they women?” She’s right; all women, regardless of background, sexual orientation or immigration status deserve protection from domestic violence. I’m glad that today, the law will reflect that ideal.

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