The Leadership Conference is working diligently to see that Tom Perez is confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Labor. Perez is an eminently qualified public servant and consensus builder who has dedicated his career to ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and have the opportunity to succeed. He has served with integrity and distinction at the local, state and national level, compiling an outstanding record of achievement.
Press Release - The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Latino Groups to House Members: Your VAWA Hurts Immigrant Victims
Groups Release Joint Statement, Stories of Immigrant Victims Illustrating the Importance of VAWA
For Immediate Release
Contact: Scott Westbrook Simpson, 202.466.2061, email@example.com
August 2, 2012
Washington, D.C. – A coalition of leading national Latino organizations is calling for the House of Representatives to pass a Violence Against Women Act that protects vulnerable communities, particularly immigrant women. The version passed by the House earlier this year rolled back protections for immigrant victims of violence whose legal status is in the hands of an abusive spouse. It also put many perpetrators out of reach of law enforcement by making it harder for undocumented victims to report and assist in the prosecution of violent crimes. Their joint statement to members of the House of Representatives, as well as stories of immigrant women and their children who have benefited from VAWA follows:
“As representatives of the broad and diverse communities of Latinos in the United States, we are deeply concerned that the House of Representatives has abandoned vulnerable communities in the Violence Against Women Act. The House bill jeopardizes immigrant victims’ continued access to the legal protections they need to escape their abusers, pursue justice, and build stable lives free from violence.
Both parties have always been in agreement that an abuser shouldn’t be able to use a victim’s legal status as a tool of abuse and control. But the House version of VAWA strips away and undermines existing legal protections that allow victims to safely escape abusers and report perpetrators, leaving countless women and children vulnerable to domestic violence, rape, and other brutal crimes.
For immigrant women whose abusers control their legal status, their marriage can become a hostage situation. Other immigrant women are targeted by opportunistic predators who beat and rape them and then threaten them with deportation if they dare to seek help. VAWA has offered a lifeline to thousands of these most vulnerable victims among us each year. We cannot let unsubstantiated claims about fraud be an empty excuse for sweeping changes that will gut a system that works and saves thousands of lives a year.
The House of Representatives must move forward on a VAWA that protects all communities that are vulnerable to abuse. This includes immigrants, the LGBT community, American Indian women, and students on college campuses.
The current impasse in Congress benefits no one. We ask all members of Congress who care about our constituencies to become part of the solution, press the House to change course, and stand up to protect immigrant women from abuse.”
Casa de Esperanza
Hispanic National Bar Association
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA)
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
National Council of La Raza (NCLR)
National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA)
Below are select stories collected from service providers around the country highlighting how an immigrant-inclusive VAWA has made a real impact in women’s lives:
“Sara” met her U.S. citizen spouse in 2005 and began a long-lasting relationship, which was unfortunately marked by severe physical and psychological abuse. Sara was afraid to go to the police for many years because her abusive spouse told her that she would be deported if she did. In 2010 Sara learned that she could safely seek protection through the legal system. She obtained a final restraining order, which remains in effect to this day. She also learned that she could apply for legal status under the Violence Against Women Act since her abusive citizen husband, who could have applied to adjust her immigration status, had never done so. Her application for lawful residence was recently approved.
Sara always found solace in writing poetry and has now assembled a collection of poetry based on her experiences as an immigrant survivor of domestic violence. One of her poems proudly hangs in the waiting room of the local Family Justice Center. In fact, she was asked to read that poem at the grand opening of the Family Justice Center, where she was praised by the State Attorney General and the prosecutor for her strength and courage. She actively participates in Family Justice Center events, mentoring other survivors of domestic violence.
“Daniela” was brutally beaten, burned, mutilated, raped and tortured by her boyfriend over the course of two years. The boyfriend also sexually and physically abused Daniela’s young son. The County Prosecutor’s Office has described the case as one of the most horrific cases of domestic violence that their office has ever seen. Daniela obtained services from a nonprofit organization for victims of abuse and applied for a U-Visa based on her cooperation with the police and the prosecutor’s office in the criminal investigation and prosecution of her abuser. Daniela’s abuser already had an extensive criminal history but thanks to Daniela’s cooperation with law enforcement, he has been sentenced to more than 20 years of prison for his crimes.
“Victoria” was a 27-year-old married mother of four when she was assaulted by two strangers who had broken into her home one night when she was home alone. They were looking for money but found none and both sexually assaulted her. Victoria assisted the police in their investigation and the men were arrested and convicted for aggravated sexual assault. Victoria experienced a lot of nightmares, anxiety and flashbacks. Through the help of a community-based organization for victims of sexual assault, Victoria received counseling services and participated in ongoing support and educational groups. She was able to obtain a U-Visa for crime victims as a result of her cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of the crime. She is currently working and her children are doing well in school. Victoria is currently attending classes with the goal of obtaining her GED.
Marianne sought help at a domestic violence agency for her relationship with her very abusive husband. She was too scared to make a police report. She was able to obtain her residency through VAWA. Because she was no longer undocumented, she no longer felt afraid to contact the police about the abuse.
Today, Marianne works in a school cafeteria and volunteers her time at the domestic violence shelter. Wanting to give back to the community and help other victims, Marianne became an active participant in the weekly women’s support group and “graduated” to the role of community leader. Marianne developed her leadership skills and then shared what she had learned with other victims by doing presentations in the community about domestic violence.
“Laura” met her U.S. citizen spouse when she was just 16 years old. She stood by him during his stints in prison for drug possession, during times when they were forced to live in homeless shelters because he could not keep a job, and eventually married him when she thought that he had conquered his addiction. Unfortunately, Laura’s husband became even more abusive after he was released from prison. Laura’s husband constantly threatened her with deportation as a way to separate her from the U.S. citizen children they had had together. With the help of domestic violence counseling, Laura safely separated from her spouse 16 years after they first met and began the long process of rebuilding her life. Laura learned that she could be eligible to self-petition under the provisions of the Violence against Women Act. Her VAWA self-petition was approved and Laura applied for permanent resident status, which was granted.
Laura is now divorced from her abusive spouse and has a successful career as a home health aide. Laura recently shared that she purchased her first home and is now a foster mother for a baby girl. Laura’s two children are thriving in their stable home environment. They were both accepted by a school for gifted and talented children, where they are excelling academically.
 Some names and other details have been changed to protect the identity of the survivors.