Amid the White House push to get immigration reform passed by the end of the year, the administration is arguing that a new law bestowing legal status on illegal immigrants will curb domestic violence by allowing undocumented women to seek help from law enforcement.
“Immigrant victims of domestic violence—whether documented or undocumented—are less likely to report crimes or seek police assistance because they fear that they or their relatives could be deported,” Lynn Rosenthal, the White House's adviser on violence against women, wrote on the White House blog. “By creating a path to earned citizenship and bringing immigrant victims out of the shadows, immigration reform eliminates dangerous vulnerabilities that lead to abuse and exploitation.”
Immigration reform advocates march through the streets of Orlando, Fla., Oct. 29, 2013, to support passage of a pathway to citizenship bill for immigration reform. (AP/John Raoux)
An immigration reform bill passed the Democrat-controlled Senate in July with bipartisan support, but will have difficulty getting through the Republican-controlled House. The legislation grants legal status to the more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, and requires the paying of back taxes while increasing border security. Supporters call the granting of legal status a “pathway to citizenship,” while opponents say it's amnesty.
“Now, Congress has the opportunity to take an important step towards protecting victims, and supporting law enforcement to create safer communities for all Americans. Commonsense immigration reform would significantly benefit immigrant women all over the country,” Rosenthal wrote.
Rosenthal cited other aspects of the legislation that would directly help victims of domestic violence.
“Too many immigrant victims face the impossible choice between becoming homeless or staying with an abusive partner,” she said. “The Senate immigration bill would close a loophole in housing legislation to ensure that immigrant survivors who are eligible for (Violence Against Women Act) self-petitions have access to public and assisted housing programs.”
Rosenthal added it would “stop abusers from using partners’ immigration status as a tool of control.”
“It is common for an abuser to use his partner’s immigration status to force her to remain in a dangerous relationship,” Rosenthal said. “The Senate immigration bill allows abused spouses and children of Registered Provisional Immigrants to maintain their own status independent from an abusive spouse or parent in cases of domestic violence, even if the legal relationship between the abuser and victim has ended.”
In a separate post on WhiteHouse.gov, senior advisor Valerie Jarrett – who sat in on an immigration meeting Obama held Tuesday with business leaders – said the president could be open to other proposals beyond the Senate plan.
“For the first time, we are seeing some House Republicans join with House Democrats to endorse a bill similar to the bipartisan bill the Senate has already passed,” Jarrett wrote. “We have also heard that House Republicans may introduce their own bills. Because ultimately, House Republicans will decide whether or not reform becomes a reality, we are eager to hear their ideas on the path forward.”