As reported earlier this year, the 112th Congress failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA” or “Act”) by the end of its term. Fortunately, the Senate’s expanded version of the Act was passed by the House on Thursday. The bill is now before the President, who stated he would be signing it as soon as it reaches his desk.
The failure to pass VAWA in January was mainly due to the House and Senate’s inability to compromise on the inclusion of protections for native Americans, undocumented immigrants, and LGBT women. Republicans later brought up the measure in the new Congress by introducing their own version of the bill, which deleted such provisions. The Republican version failed to pass, however, and instead 87 House Republicans joined 199 Democrats to pass the Senate’s original version of the bill.
VAWA is an important piece of legislation, particularly for women, minorities, and immigrants. The Act provides immigration options for victims of domestic violence as well as support for organizations that aid such victims. The Act also heightens sentences for certain federal crimes, funds investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, and provides for civil redress in such cases. VAWA has consistently been reauthorized since it was originally passed in 1994, and so Thursday’s vote comes as a relief to the Act’s supporters. Much of the VAWA provisions affecting immigrants have been codified in the Immigration and Nationality Act and thus are unaffected. Nevertheless, VAWA provides significant protections for foreign nationals apart from immigration status, and so the immigration community is also relieved to see the bill has ultimately passed.