|For Immediate Release
May 8, 2012
Contact: Charlotte Sellmyer, 202-225-3951
Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith
Full Committee Markup of
H.R. 4970, the “Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2012”
Chairman Smith: H.R. 4970, the “Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2012,” introduced by our colleague Sandy Adams, reauthorizes the funding for VAWA grant programs for five years. I have been a strong supporter of the Violence Against Women Act since its enactment in 1994.
VAWA addresses violence against women by establishing within the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services a number of grant programs for state, local, and Indian tribal governments. DOJ’s Office on Violence against Women, which was established in 1995, administers three formula-based and 14 discretionary grant programs.
VAWA provides valuable resources to the victims of domestic violence.
In February 1996, the Austin, Texas-based Texas Council on Family Violence launched the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Since that time, the group has answered nearly 2 and a half million calls.
The Hotline is a life-line for victims of domestic violence and their families. Over the past 15 years, the Hotline has provided victims with crisis counseling, information on legal advocacy, shelters and healthcare facilities.
This is just one of many examples of programs funded across the country under VAWA that bring real benefits to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
H.R. 4970 increases resources for sexual assault investigations, prosecutions, and victim services to bring those resources into line with the victimization rate.
The bill protects victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking as it strengthens penalties and improves federal stalking laws. It promotes educational awareness to prevent violence and improves services for young victims by funding state prevention education programs and enhancing campus programs.
This bill also enhances immigration laws to protect victims of violence. Fraud and abuse in the U.S. immigration system must be stopped.
Immigrants who perpetrate fraud in order to get visas or U.S. citizenship devalue U.S. immigration laws and hurt legitimate victims who are the intended beneficiaries of the generous programs we have established.
The changes made in this bill protect immigrant victims of domestic violence who self-petition for green cards and ensure that scarce resources funded by the American taxpayers go to actual victims.
This bill also supports the primary goal of the U visa program to ensure that law enforcement receives the tools it needs for the investigation and prosecution of crimes.
Under the bill, temporary U visas are given to illegal immigrants who are victims of crimes in the U.S. only if they actually assist in the investigation and prosecution of their assailants.
It doesn’t provide them with permanent residency or a path to citizenship. That should never have been a goal of the U visa program and is not necessary to provide illegal immigrants with an incentive to cooperate with law enforcement officials.
The Violence Against Women Act has historically been a bipartisan effort. Violence against women doesn’t occur along party lines, and neither should reauthorization of these programs.
This legislation reauthorizes every single VAWA grant program at the same level as the Senate-passed reauthorization bill.
Instead of working with us in a bipartisan manner to protect women from domestic violence, rape and stalking, some in Congress are trying to use violence against women as a political prop.
They have chosen to place partisan posturing above the urgent needs of victims of violence.
VAWA has helped many women escape abuse and enabled them to seek help through its victim-services program.
As I mentioned before, this legislation reauthorizes every VAWA grant program at the same level as the Senate-passed reauthorization bill.
At the end of the mark-up, I hope every member of this Committee will support a program that benefits so many women.