HR 4970 includes dangerous provisions for many victims, omits crucial protections for others and generally weakens the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) HR4970’s Audit requirements are excessive, burdensome and costly and divert limited grant funding from direct services to bureaucracy
Since enactment, VAWA has included important reporting and oversight provisions both for grantees and for the Department of Justice (DOJ).
HR 4970 erodes, rather than enhances, effective oversight. HR 4970:
o Inhibits effective accounting practices by redirecting energy from good
accounting industry standards for small non-profit organizations to “make work”
efforts which serve only to grow government and handicap victim services.
o Fails to include the provision of pre-emptive technical assistance and training to
small—especially rural—non-profit organizations and instead imposes punitive,
resource diverting mandates on local programs.
In separate letters addressed to Representative Poe and Senator Leahy, DOJ has reported that “VAWA grants are being used effectively for their intended purpose,” that “grant management and grantee recordkeeping are generally sound,” and that when auditing problems arise, they are “not about waste, fraud or abuse, but rather about inadequate accounting and insufficient documentation” and are quickly resolved.
In order to effectively serve victims, the resources required to implement this substantial new audit requirement would be better spent on technical assistance and financial training for the hundreds of small police departments, courts, and non-profits who are OVW grantees. Erodes important provisions for immigrant victims’ safety and gives abusers additional
tools with which to harm victims.
Amendments allowing the alleged abuser access to the self-petition process create a
chilling effect on victims’ help-seeking. Abusers who could have adjusted the status of their spouse and chose not to as a tool of abuse and fear will be in a position to block the victim’s access to this critical remedy for battered immigrants. Informing and allowing alleged abusers to provide input in these cases puts victims at significant risk of retaliation. Abusers frequently deny the abuse and falsely accuse victims of fraud or abuse. HR 4970 allows abusers to contact ICE to try to stop their spouse from getting legal status.
Shifting the self-petition process to local offices is duplicative, expensive, and does not address concerns about fraud. Adding an additional interview requirement is unnecessary, would be very costly and would require extensive training on domestic violence and sexual assault at USCIS offices across the country. Currently, the specialized USCIS center that adjudicates these applications is trained to weigh the evidence and ferret out fraud and can request additional evidence if necessary. Additionally, self-petition applicants have to attend an interview at their local offices to adjust their status to lawful permanent residence. The double interview requirement places an extra hurdle for victims of abuse not required for other applicants for status.2
Adding an interview process to VAWA cancellation of removal hearings to local offices is duplicative and expensive. In VAWA cancellation of removal cases, the petitioner appears at hearings with an immigration judge, so a separate interview places an unnecessary burden. Adding an interview process to VAWA cancellation hearings will slow immigration court cases down immensely, bogging down the court calendar further. Limits the U visa program, barring the use of unused visas, and will endanger victims who work with law enforcement to bring perpetrators to justice.
Victims of crime should be able to work with law enforcement to bring perpetrators to justice.
Limiting the U-visa certification process will discourage victims from coming forward and cooperating with law enforcement. Yet law enforcement tells us that failing to report crimes like these only exacerbates their negative impact on the community. Considering that many who commit U-visa crimes are serial perpetrators, law enforcement wants victims to come forward regardless of whether there is an active investigation or prosecution has begun.
Restrictive certification requirements discourage cooperation with law enforcement.
Victims who were hurt even long ago can provide useful information in holding serial
perpetrators accountable. This is true for citizen victims as well as immigrant victims. Undermines the potential of lifesaving housing protections in VAWA
o One of the most pressing needs identified by victims and their advocates is the
ability to relocate/transfer to a safe home to escape violence.
o The housing emergency relocation and transfer section in VAWA should (as it
does in the Senate passed S.1925) require that owners, managers and public
housing agencies (PHAs) adopt the transfer plan developed by federal agencies.
o HR 4970 makes the adoption of such a plan voluntary by owners, managers and
PHAs, essentially undermining the remaining components of this potentially
Notice of rights:
o The housing rights codified by VAWA protect victims of domestic violence,
dating violence, sexual assault and stalking from eviction or denial of benefit
based on their status as victims and/or the actions of their perpetrators.
o In order to enjoy these rights and avoid unlawful eviction, notice of VAWA rights
should be distributed at key times, specifically at eviction. Without adequate
notice, victims will never know they have the right not to be evicted based on the
actions of their perpetrators or as a result of violence/assault.
o By giving notice at eviction, owners, managers and PHAs can help victims come
forward and avoid costly, contentious and unnecessary eviction proceedings.
o HR 4970 does not require notice at eviction, unlike the Senate passed S. 1925
Fails to include key provisions needed to help reduce violence against young women.
Provisions omitted would have to:
Require institutions to include in their annual campus crime reports statistics on
domestic violence, dating violence and stalking (sexual assault is already in the Clery 3 Act) reported on campus and would have to provide clear statements regarding the procedures followed when a case of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking is reported.
Require institutions to give victims a written explanation of their rights any time they report being a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking, including:
o victim’s right to notify (or not notify) law enforcement if they choose e to do so;
o obligation of institution to help the victim report the incident to law enforcement
and seek a protective order from a local court;
o victim’s options regarding changing academic, living, transportation and working
situations, if the victim so requests and such accommodations are reasonably
Required institutions to establish clear, prompt and equitable procedures for on-campus disciplinary action in cases of alleged domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking
Given both the victim and the accused with the right to have another person present at disciplinary proceedings
Provided prevention programs teaching all students, male and female, how to help
prevent sexual violence and dating violence, including bystander education.
I realize I usually send you information regarding the Texas legislative process and so you may be surprised to see an email and an action alert from me especially because the Texas legislature will not be in session until January 2013. This email relates to important efforts TCFV and our partners have taken on at the federal level.
For the past year, Congress has been working on the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). VAWA is a coordinated civil and criminal legal and direct services approach that has worked for over almost two decades. In 2011 alone, Texas received $8.8 million in grants that help communities all over the state take violence against women seriously. I myself served as a VAWA-funded prosecutor and so saw the direct impact to our efforts at keeping vicitms safe and holding offenders accountable.
Bottom line: VAWA represents the federal government’s robust, comprehensive and successful approach to addressing intimate partner violence, sexual assault and stalking.
The Congressional authorization of VAWA must be renewed from time to time and in fact the authorization for the past cycle expired almost two years ago. TCFV has been participating and monitoring the progress of Reauthorization, including getting into the details of the various bills and offering direct feedback to national partners and the Texas elected delegation. Whereas in the previous two cycles of VAWA Reauthorization the bill drew no opposition, this time around Congress has not come to consensus as easily.
The good news is that the Senate has already passed S.1925; this bill represents the most thoroughly vetted and bipartisan approach to Reauthorization. TCFV supports S.1925 and asks that you do so as well. If you would like to appraise the bill yourself, you can find the full text at http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/s1925. The bill passed the Senate by a margin on 68-31.
The House has also taken up the measure with its HR 4970. Although the House version contains significant components of S.1925, it also omits and incorporates different provisions that will harm victims and their service provision. Among several areas of concern are the significant erosion of protection for immigrant victims of violence and the increase of bureaucracy and resulting expense that would come from direct victim services funding. If you are interested, here is the entire bill –http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20120514/BILLS-112-HR4970RH.pdf.
Two important steps in the process most likely will occur this week. First, the powerful House Rules Committee will determine this Tuesday how the debate will occur when the overall House votes on the bill. The Rules Committee will decide whether members will be allowed to offer changes to the bill and even whether debate on the bill can occur on the House floor. TCFV calls for the inclusion of amendments that protect vulnerable immigrant victims and others, a debate of the bill on the House floor and allowing the introduction of amendments during the debate.
Second, the bill will go to the full House for a vote. In preparation for that vote, TCFV calls on Texas House members to support changes to HR4970 that conform with S.1925 to the greatest extent possible.
In service of these goals, TCFV continues to work with our Congressional partners to offer solutions regarding the provisions. This is where you can help.
We have drafted the attached letter that you can use to communicate your support for S.1925 and the needed changes to HR 4970; Texas family violence programs, their boards and community partners will be particularly impactful, but contacts from others will also help. Because time is of the essence, we ask that you make contact today and do so by email rather than a traditional letter. TCFV makes careful and strategic decisions about how often and in what manner to call on programs and supporters to make this kind of outreach. We ask for you to do so because we judge this stage and this approach to be key in the VAWA Reauthorization process.
Do you know who represents you in Congress? Find out at http://www.house.gov/representatives/.
In addition to your elected members, also consider including:
-Chairman Lamar Smith, who leads the Judiciary Committee (http://lamarsmith.house.gov/)
-Congressman Pete Sessions, who serves on the Rules Committee (http://sessions.house.gov/)
I have also attached a fact sheet which highlights some key areas of HR 4970 that we ask the House to change.
After the House completes it work on VAWA Reauthorization, the Senate and the House would then need to convene a Conference Committee comprised of Senate and House members to work out the differences between the two versions of the bill. Following that conference committee work, the resulting bill would then return to both chambers for their ratification. These will also be important steps and as such TCFV will communicate with you in a strategic manner and at strategic points along the way.
Questions? I am happy to speak with you on VAWA or any topic. See below for my card with my cell number.
May 15, 2012 | Categories: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Florida, Funding, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Legislative Requests, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvannia, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, VAWA RE-AUTHORIZATION, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming | Tags: House review, Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Senate passing 68-31, VAWA | 7 Comments »