On Wednesday evening, the House passed its version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA), H.R. 4970, in a close 222-205 vote.
As introduced, H.R. 4970 would have taken steps to make the U visa a true non-immigrant visa. First, the original bill would have removed a provision from federal law that allows U visa holders to obtain legal permanent residency after three years, per the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Second, it would have prevented U visa holders from extending the temporary four-year visa period by an additional four-year period. (See H.R. 4970 § 806 as introduced) (To read more about the U Visa, see FAIR’s Policy Statement)
Unfortunately, over the weekend, House leadership changed course and decided to strip these provisions from the bill. According to news reports, House Leadership quietly invited outside groups — including the National Organization for Women and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence — to the Capitol last weekend to develop the amendment package and win their support.
As a result, the night before the bill was to be voted on, the House Rules Committee adopted a manager’s amendment offered by Rep. Sandy Adams, the author of H.R. 4970, which weakened several of the key immigration provisions in the original bill. (See House Rules Committee Website)
As amended, the bill now provides that U visa holders will receive a green card if the offenders are aliens, are convicted, and are deported to the visa holder’s home country. Moreover, the amended bill reinstates a provision allowing aliens under the U visa program to extend their visa while waiting for a green card.
The amendment also weakens safeguards in the original bill to protect against fraud by lowering the standard of evidence required to demonstrate an alien was a victim before the government can cancel an order of removal against them and grant them a green card. (See H.R. 4970 § 801)
President Obama, nonetheless, has threatened to veto the House version of the bill due its immigration-related provisions, as well as unrelated provisions affecting tribal authority and the LGBT community. (Statement of Administration Policy, May 15, 2012)
It is now up to House and Senate conferees to draft a compromise of the chambers’ competing bills. Stay tuned to FAIR as details unfold…