Domestic Abuse Advocates Concerned About Proposed U Visa Changes

Ongoing political wrangling over reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has centered on several issues, notably the role of provisions that help immigrants who cooperate with police investigations. The House version of VAWA includes significant alterations to laws that help immigrants come forward to report domestic abuse.

Under current law, a person who is married to an American citizen or legal resident who provides sufficient proof of abuse can confidentially seek a U visa without immigration officials informing the alleged abuser. Under the House version of the VAWA reauthorization, that confidentiality would no longer exist, but many argue that it is necessary to prevent abusive spouses and domestic partners from coercing abuse victims into submission for fear of deportation.

One reason cited by advocates for the proposed change is the possibility that an untruthful immigrant spouse can abuse the system, potentially leading to the arrest or loss of parental rights of an innocent citizen. Victims' rights advocates counter that the U visa program is not a simple amnesty program, and emphasize that the immigration officials who administer the process are career professionals with training to recognize real indicators of domestic abuse.

Helping Immigrants Seek Asylum From Abuse And Persecution

While U visas are a distinct way for immigrants to become legal residents, the existence of the program has the same essential basis as petitions for asylum and refugee status. When a person reports incidents of domestic violence, he or she aids in fostering a safer society. That is one clear reason why 325 organizations that oppose the House bill have signed a letter imploring House members to reinstate provisions that encourage the use of U visas in conjunction with domestic violence investigations.

An immigration attorney can provide clear answers to aspiring immigrants who have suffered abuse, persecution, torture or other severe hardships. Success of applications for visas, asylum, refugee protection and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) depend on a detailed factual record and up-to-date knowledge of recent or pending changes in immigration law.