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House Judiciary Mark Up of Violence Against Women Act Bill
House Judiciary Mark Up of Violence Against Women Act Bill
 
         


Immigration is Front and Center as the House Judiciary Committee Approves Controversial Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Bill



By Micheal E. Hill
Tuesday, May 8, 2012  -- 6:00 pm EDT

--Updated on Friday, May 11, 2012 at 12:30 am EDT--
--Original Version Posted on May 8, 2012 at 12:01 am EDT--



The House Committee on the Judiciary has approved legislation reauthorizing programs authorized by the Violence Against Women Act, doing so largely along party lines.  Included in the measure are a number of provisions that would rolll back protections in existing law for battered aliens who are the victims of domestic violence.  Committee action occurred on Tuesday, May 8, 2012, in connection with H.R. 4970, the "Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2012".  The Committee approved the measure by a vote of 17-15 after taking up numerous amendments, including 11 amendments that would pose significant consequences for immigration policy.

The markup session began at approximately 10:27 am EDT on Tuesday, May 8, 2012, in Room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building.  It lasted until close to 6:00 pm EDT.


H.R. 4970 is controversial for several reasons.  Unlike S. 1925, the Senate-passed version of legislation reauthorizing programs under VAWA, it does not include provisions relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals who are the victims of domestic violence.  And it does not include provisions relating to the authority of Indian Tribes to prosecute non-Native Americans. 

Some of the greatest controversy surrounding H.R. 4970 is found in several of the immigration-related provisions that are contained within Title VIII of the measure.  Those provisions were opposed by more than 100 domestic violence, religious, civil rights, and immigration advocacy organizations and individuals.

In all, of the 11 immigration-related amendents that the Committee took up, the Committee agreed to five of them and it rejected four of them.  One of the amendments was withdrawn by its sponsor prior to a vote on it.  And another was ruled nongermane and not considered by the Committee.


Immigration Amendments Considered
The following immigration-related amendments were taken up by the Committee during the markup of H.R. 4970:

Immigration Amendments Agreed to
  • ADAMS MANAGERS AMENDMENT.  Representative Sandy Adams (R-FL) offered a "Managers Amendment" to H.R. 4970 that contained a number of technical and noncontroversial changes to the bill, including nine technical immigration-related changes.
The Committee agreed to the Adams Managers Amendment by a voice vote.

  • WATT SECOND DEGREE AMENDENT TO POE 60-DAY TIME LIMIT FOR REPORTING CRIME AMENDMENT.  Representative Mel Watt (D-NC) offered an amendment to the Poe amendment that would strike the provisions in H.R. 4970 that would have require "U" Visa  recipients to report the crime embodied in the abuse within 60 days of the crime's occurrence and to require that the staute of limitations on the crime has not lapsed. 
The Committee agreed to the  Watt Second Degree Amendment to the Poe Amendment by a voice vote.

  • POE 60-DAY TIME LIMIT FOR REPORTING CRIME AMENDMENT.  Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) offered an amendment to H.R. 4970, the original version of which would have stricken a provision in H.R. 4970, as introduced, that would have required an abused alien seeking a "U" Visa to report the crime embodied in the abuse within 60 days of the crime's occurrence.  It would have replaced the 60-day limit with a requirement that the crime be reported within the statute of limitations for the crime.
The Committee agreed to the Poe 60-Day Time Limit for Reporting Crime Amendment, as modified by the Watt Second Degree Amendment, by a vote of 30-0.

  • GOWDY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DEPORTABLE OFFENSE AMENDMENT.  Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) offered an amendment to H.R. 4970 intended to ensure that persons convicted of a domestic violence crime is deportable, even if the crime did not involve violent force.  It would accomplish this by ensuring that evidence in a police report can be considered in decisions about whether a person is deportable. 
The Committee agreed to the  Gowdy Domestic Violence Amendment, by a voice vote.

  • ADAMS CRIMINAL ACTIVITY REPORT FOR "U" VISA RECPIENTS AMENDMENT.  Representative Sandy Adams (R-FL) offered an amendment to require the compilation of a report on the crimes that form the basis for "U" Visa petitions.
The Committee agreed to the Adams Criminal Activity Amendment by a voice vote.


Immigration Amendments Rejected
  • LOFGREN/BERMAN SUBSTITUTE AMENDMENT FOR IMMIGRATION TITLE.  House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement Ranking Minority Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), along with Representative Howard Berman (D-CA), offered an amendment to H.R. 4970 that would strike all of the immigration provisions in Title VIII of H.R. 4790, as introduced, and replace those provisions with  Title VIII of the Senate-passed version of S. 1925, with the exception of Sec. 809 of S. 1925, relating to the Northern Mariana Islands.
The Committee rejected the Lofgren/Berman Immigration Substitute Amendment by a vote of 12-17.

  • DEUTCH AMENDMENT TO STRIKE "FRAUD PREVENTION MEASURES" SECTION.  Representative Peter Deutch (D-FL) offered an amendment to H.R. 4970 that would Strike Sec. 801 of the bill, which would make it more difficult and risky for abused aliens to self-petition for relief under the Immigration and Nationality Act. 
The Committee rejected the Deutch Amendment to Strike the "Fraud Prevention" Section by a vote of 11-17.

  • JACKSON LEE AMENDMENT TO STRIKE MULTIPLE IMMIGRATION SECTIONS.  Representative Shelia Jackson Lee (D-TX) offered an amendment to strike Sections 801, 802, 806, and 813 of H.R. 4970. 
The Committee rejected the Jackson Lee Amendment to Strike Sections 801, 802, 806, and 813 of H.R. 4970 by a vote of 10-15.

  • PIERLUISI AMENDMENT TO "RECAPTURE" UNUSED U VISAS.  Representative Pedro Pierluisi (D-PR) offered an amendment to strike Sections 801, 802, 806, and 813 of H.R. 4970. 
The Committee rejected the Pierluisi U Visa Recapture Amendment by a vote of 11-12.


Immigration Amendments Offered and Withdrawn
  • POE "U" VISA ADJUSTMENT AMENDMENT.  Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) offered an en bloc amendment that combined two amendments that he had separately drafted.  The first was an amendment that would have stricken Sec. 806 of H.R. 4970, which would repeal an existing provision of law that permits "U" Visa recipients to adjust their status Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status.  The second amendment included in the en block amendment related to testing of DNA in rape kits.
Representative Poe withdrew the Poe En Bloc Amendment without seeking a vote on it.


Immigration Amendments Ruled Nongermane
  • CONYERS SUBSTITUTE AMENDMENT.  House Judiciary Committee Ranking Minority Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) offered a Substitute Amendment to H.R. 4970.  With respect to immigration, the Conyers Substitute's provisions mirrored those in the Senate-passed version of  S. 1925, it's Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Bill.
The Chairman ruled that the Conyers Substitute Amendment was not germane to the bill, and so the Committee did not consider the amendment.


Summary of Immigration Provisions
As approved by the House Committee on the Judiciary, H.R. 4970 contains 14 immigration-related provisions, all clustered in Title VIII of the bill.

The following summarizes those provisions:
  • Fraud Prevention Measures.”  Section 801 would make it more difficult and risky for abused aliens to self-petition for immigration relief.  More specifically, it would require VAWA self-petitions to be adjudicated by the local service center of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) rather than continuing the current practice that consolidates adjudication of such petitions in the Vermont Service Center.  It also would require USCIS to interview the petitioning alien, and it would provide for an interview by USCIS of the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse who is accused of abusing the alien.  It would require USCIS to consider "anyl credible evidence", including that submitted by the accused U.S. citizen or permanent resident, as well as consider evidence that developed in related criminal investigations or prosecutions, and the petition.  And it would impose a “clear and convincing” standard on claims rather than the current standard, which is “preponderance of the evidence”.  Furthermore, it would provide that if the alien petitioner is determined to have made a material misrepresentation in their petition, they shall be removed and be ineligible for all immigration benefits and that the case shall be referred to the FBI.
  • New Requirements for Obtaining a U Visa.  Section 802 would add new, more stringent requirements that U Visa applicants must meet in order to obtain the visas.  More specifically, it would require that the crime embodied in the abuse is being actively under investigation or prosecution.
  • Protections for a Fiancée or Spouse of a Citizen.  Section 803 would add a new protection for fiancé’s of U.S. citizens.  More specifically, it would add to the current requirement that before the State Department can issue a “K” visa to the fiancé or spouse of a U.S. citizen, that the petition filed by the citizen must include information on any specified criminal convictions. Section 803 would provide that, in addition, information also has to be provided on convictions for attempted crimes and on any permanent protection or restraining orders issued against the citizen.
  • Regulation of International Marriage Brokers.  Section 804 would amend the provision in the International Marriage Broker Act of 2005 that prohibits international marriage brokers from providing anyone with information regarding children under the age of 18.  The provision in H.R. 4970 would also require that the broker obtain and retain the birth certificates of foreign national clients.
  • GAO Report on Fraud in U and T Visas.  Section 805 would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to issue a report on possible fraud in petitions and self-petitions by abused aliens for U and T visas.
  • Eliminate Ability of U Visa Recipients to Adjust.  Section 806 would repeal the provision in current law that makes it possible for "U" visa recipients to adjust to LPR status.
  • Annual Report on Immigration Applications Made by Victims of Abuse.  Section 807 would require the Department of Homeland Security to report to Congress each year on the U visa program, the T visa program and the self-petitioning for green card process for battered aliens, including information on processing times and efforts to reduce processing times while ensuring safe and competent processing and while combating fraud and ensuring program integrity.
  • Protection for Minor Children of VAWA Petitioners Who Die.  Section 808 would provide that if a VAWA self-petitioner dies, the minor children of the alien can still have their applications for permanent residence adjudicated.
  • Waiver of Public Charge Grounds of Inadmissibility.  Section 809 would provide that the public charge ground of inadmissibility shall not apply to battered self-petitioners, aliens who have applied for or been granted U visas, and certain other battered aliens.
  • Age-Out Protection for U Visa Applicants. Section 810 would provide that the minor children of U visa applicants who turn 21 while the applications are being adjudicated shall retain their status as minors for purpose of eligibility for immigration benefits.
  • Hardship Waivers for Aliens in Bigamous Marriages. Section 811 would allow USCIS to remove the conditional status of an alien who was battered after unknowingly entering into a bigamous marriage.
  • Information Sharing for National Security Purposes.  Section 812 would provide exceptions to confidentiality promised to trafficking victims in order to permit information sharing "for national security purpose[s]".  The Section also contains several technical fixes to the Immigration and Nationality Act.
  • Report on Requirements to Cooperate with Law Enforcement Officials.  Section 813 would require that the GAO issue a report to Congress on the adjudication of U visas in order to assess the effectiveness the reforms made by Section 802 of the Act in ensuring that potential U visa recipients aid in the investigation, apprehension, and prosecution of criminals, and the effect such reforms had on the number of U visas issued and on the demand for U visas.
  • Consideration of Police and Sentencing Reports in Determining Whether a Domestic Violence Conviction is a Violent Offense.  Section 814 would permit the Attorney General to “consider any other evidence that the Attorney General determines to be reliable” in making the determination of whether a crime of domestic violence constitutes a crime of violence, “including sentencing reports and police reports” “if the conviction records do not conclusively establish whether a crime of domestic violence constitutes a crime of violence (as defined in section 16 of title 18, United States Code).”

Next Steps
Now that the House Committee on the Judiciary has approved H.R. 4970, the next step in the process is for the Comimittee to formally report the measure the full House for its consideration.  The House could take up the measure as soon as the week of May 14, 2012.



Check back later for links to all of the immigration-related amendments that were considered by the Committee during its markup of H.R. 4970




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House Judiciary Mark Up of Violence Against Women Act Bill