House version of the VAWA reauthorization bill is bad for farmworkers

The Adams/Cantor version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization bill, H.R. 4970, significantly weakens the relief available to victims of domestic violence.  VAWA is important to farmworker women as they suffer high rates of domestic violence.  In its current form, VAWA provides important relief, one form of which is a U visa for noncitizen farmworker victims of domestic violence crimes.  Often abusers of noncitizen victims of domestic violence take advantage of their immigration status by threatening to turn their victims into immigration authorities to have them deported.  The U-visa offers these victims protection by allowing them to stay in the country and at the same time facilitates law enforcement’s prosecution of the crimes.  Among other concerning provisions, HR 4970 would remove the path to lawful permanent residency currently available under the U visa. This change would impact not only domestic violence victims, but all crime victims who are eligible for a U visa.  For farmworkers this change is devastating.  As the EEOC has repeatedly stated, farmworker women are especially vulnerable to sexual harassment and violence in the workplace, in addition to severe labor exploitation, including trafficking.  Other bad changes in the bill include the fact that it would allow for perpetrators of the abuse to be notified of the victim’s application for a visa and otherwise make a victim’s ability to access the U visa much more challenging.  These changes would empower abusers and deter victims from coming forward to report abuse. The result would be increased danger for victims.

 H.R. 4970 has been voted out of committee and will be considered on the House floor on Wednesday, May 14, 2012.  For more information on this bill, see the National Employment Law Project’s Factsheet: and Op-ed: