Is putting up with violence, pain and emotional trauma the price women have to pay if they want to live in the United States without documentation? Yes, according to House Republicans, who are trying to tighten the laws surrounding deportation to require sending victims of domestic abuse back to their home countries if they aren’t needed to testify against their abusers.
As Mother Jones reports, Republican Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas is proposing the “Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation (HALT) Act,” a bill that among other things, could change the rules for protecting undocumented immigrants who are the victims of domestic abuse if they report the crime to the police:
Under current law, undocumented immigrants trapped in abusive circumstances have two options. When paired with work authorization, these two processes offer a route to financial independence and deliverance for undocumented immigrants who might otherwise have to continue relying on their abuser:
- The Violence Against Women Act establishes a process by which undocumented women or children can come forward and petition for legal status so that they aren’t forced to stay with an abusive spouse or parent. Undocumented immigrants whose abusive spouse or parent is also not a citizen require deferrals to avoid being deported while their visa petitions are being considered.
- A special type of visa called a U visa allows undocumented immigrants who cooperate with law enforcement against their abusers to obtain work authorization and temporary legal status in the country.
However, if the HALT Act went into effect, a cap would be put on the number of visas that could be issued and the qualifications likely narrowed to just those actively working with law enforcement against their abusers. Should they no longer be needed to testify, especially once the spouse or partner is in jail, they may no longer be protected.
There was outrage when a Republican legislator Ryan Fattman stated that when it comes to curbing illegal immigration, undocumented women who have been victims of rape should weigh the benefits of reporting the crime versus the possibility that it could expose her to being deported. “My thought is that if someone is here illegally, they should be afraid to come forward,” Mr. Fattman said. “If you do it the right way, you don’t have to be concerned about these things.”
Does the victim of repeated physical abuse need to be afraid to come forward, as well? Should ongoing violence really be the price a woman would have to pay to stay in the country?
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