On Tuesday, Jan. 22 Senators Patrick Leahy and Mike Crapo introduced their new version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that would reauthorize the expired law and add protections for the LGBTQ community and Native American women. It also has new terms to provide audits of untested rape kits and gives law enforcement resources to help reduce the backlog of rape kits.
This January, for the first time in 18 years, Congress failed to reauthorize VAWA. It was opposed by conservative Republicans who didn’t want to extend the Act to same-sex couples, among other things. The Senate is expected to vote next week on whether to reauthorize and, so far, House Republican leaders have remained silent on whether they will try to block the bill.
The new bill is different from last year’s proposed version in that it will not provide lengthened visas for immigrants who are victims of violence. Mony Ruiz-Velasco of the National Immigrant Justice Center issued a statement saying that with the increase of state anti-immigration laws, the protections that could be afforded by VAWA are more important than ever in ensuring that victims of domestic violence are not deported while seeking safety. By balking on adding immigrant protections to VAWA, Congress is sending the message that “some victims do not deserve the same level of protection as others.”
VAWA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and has provided $1.6 billion for the investigation and prosecution of violence against women. It was renewed in 2000 and 2005, and in 2012 was reauthorized by the Senate but not brought up for a vote in the House.