Immigrant Women Threatened With Less Protection Against Domestic, Sexual Abuse

President Obama declared on May 16 that he plans to veto a GOP-written House bill that he says will not provide enough support and protection for undocumented immigrants, Native Americans or homosexuals that are victims of domestic abuse.

The revision is based off of federal legislation written by Vice President Joseph Biden, the Violence Against Women Act, which is aimed at improving community-based and criminal justice responses to situations of violence against women. The modification is highly opposed by immigrant advocates because if passed, it will eliminate confidentiality protections for immigrant victims of domestic or sexual abuse, which will give more power to the abuser.

The initial bill went into effect in 1994 and the newest revision, made in 2005, expired last year. Despite the fact the Senate requested that the revised bill to provide protection to LGBTQ and Native American individuals, the modification failed to mention any of the three.

The new bill also requires abuse victims without U.S. citizenship to file a report within 60 days of the occurrence, otherwise the victim can be subject to deportation.

Michelle Ortiz, director of the Lucha Project, an organization geared toward supporting low-income immigrant women and children who overcome abuse, said the new bill will not support many of her clients in an Op-Ed to the Huffington Post. Ortiz has dedicated years of her life to providing confidentiality to immigrant victims, who she said, are often threatened by their abusers with deportation.

Just hours before the House is expected to vote on the newly altered bill, President Obama released a veto message addressing his disinterest in the bill.

The White House’s statement states that the GOP proposals “take direct aim at immigrant victims of domestic violence and sexual assault,” and “jeopardize victims by placing them directly in harm’s way.”

Not all republican officials are on par with the legislation. House Representative Judy Biggert told the House Rules Committee the bill should include the immigrant and LGBT protections initiated by the Senate.

“I am very concerned that the current bill, even with changes made … doesn’t reflect everything we’ve learned over the last five years in terms of what works best for prosecutors or victims,” Biggert told the panel, according to The Associated Press.

The House is expected to vote on the bill on May 16. If the bill is passed, a committee that contains lawmakers from both sides will meet to draft a neutral bill.