Legislation alert for NY: Additional protection for immigrants dealing with domestic violence

Obama’s recent executive order targeted to undocumented immigration youth, highlights another important immigration policy that remains unresolved – the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Right now there are two competing versions of a women’s rights bill extension.  Both Senate and the Congress versions seek to extend VAWA, which protects immigrant women against violence, sexual or otherwise, and increases penalties for certain types of rapes.  But Congress and the U.S. Senate differ on what should be included in the latest iteration. A Congress subcommittee passed a version that took out key provisions that protected illegal immigrants when dealing with domestic violence.  This prompted an outcry from the Queens lawmakers, who have introduced state legislation to protect the anonymity of victims’ immigration status when they report domestic violence.

Called, The New York State Violence Against Women Act, this legislation was introduced by State Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) earlier this month.

This bill would:

(1) Ensure law enforcement officials handling cases of domestic violence could not ask about the immigration status of the victim nor report that status if he or she became aware of it.

(2) Allow a judge to consider if an abuser attempted to silence a victim by threatening to reveal that victim’s immigration status.

New York residents and immigration advocates should closely follow what is happening at the state-level to protect women immigrants dealing with domestic violence.

If you are a victim of domestic violence or know someone who is click here for information on domestic violence legal aid in New York.

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