NTF OPPOSES the Collins Senate Bill, S. 534

February 24, 2015

Dear Senator, 

As the Steering Committee of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (“NTF”), comprised of national leadership organizations advocating on behalf of sexual and domestic violence victims and women’s rights, we write in opposition to the Collins Senate bill, S.534, relating to the prohibition of funds to carry out the President’s 2014 immigration Executive action. In particular, we object to sections 2 and 3, as they harm victims of domestic and sexual violence and ignore their best interests as well as those of their children. 

We recently celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”), which has, since it was first enacted, included critical protections for immigrant victims of domestic and sexual violence. The proposed bill undermines protections from removal for victims of domestic and sexual violence and undercuts the spirit of VAWA. 

We strongly urge you to OPPOSE the bill, in particular because of the impact that the following sections will have on victims: 

Section 2. Prohibition on Funding for Certain Executive Actions Related to Immigration 

What it does: 

  • Among other things, the provision prevents the use of funds or fees for all of the November 20, 2014 Executive Action mandates by the president, including: (1) the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for young people who arrived in the United States as Children; and (2) stops the implementation of the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program, which provides protection for parents of U.S. citizen and Lawful Permanent Resident children. These programs grant immigrants who are not priorities for deportation some protection from removal, and the ability to contribute formally to our society. 
  • The provision prohibits any “substantially similar” policy changes to these memos in the future. 
  • Prohibits the use of funds or fees to “grant any Federal benefit” to any noncitizen pursuant to any of the policy changes in these memos. 
  • The provision reinstates the Secure Communities Program. 

Why this section harms victims of domestic and sexual violence: 

  • Increases Vulnerability of Immigrant Victims: It takes away the potential relief from (1) fear of deportation and (2) financial dependence on abusers. The DACA program has already helped a significant number of victims to gain independence from their abusers. 
  • Decreases Safety in our Communities: Victims associate reporting a crime with being deported because local law enforcement is closely entwined with ICE as dictated by the Secure Communities Program. As a result, victims are afraid of reporting crimes, and many violent crimes go unreported. 
  • Increases Likelihood of Deportation of Victims: Due to language and cultural barriers resulting in victims being arrested or convicted of domestic violence charges, victims are likely to be put in removal proceedings resulting from law enforcement entanglement with ICE in implementing Secure Communities. 

Section 3. Prohibition on Funding Certain Civil Immigration Enforcement Priorities 

What it does: 

  • This provision prohibits ICE from implementing the new detention and deportation priorities memo set in the November 20, 2014 Executive Action memo regarding policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants.
  • Prevents funding to support implementation, administration, enforcement, or carrying out of any policy that does not prioritize enforcement against those with domestic violence, sexual abuse, and child abuse convictions. Although this memo seems to set new priorities from those in place, the changes are minimal. In particular, it removes the guidance provided in the November 20, 2014 memo, which recognizes that immigrant victims of domestic violence may themselves be convicted of domestic violence. Eliminates DHS prosecutorial discretion to consider the needs of victims of domestic and sexual violence, including the trauma they have experienced, in prioritizing enforcement activities. 

How it affects victims of domestic and sexual violence: 

  • Victims’ Dependence on Perpetrator: Victims of domestic violence often do not seek help when they know that the consequences to the perpetrator (for example, a spouse or parent, or perhaps other family member) may result in the perpetrator’s deportation. This takes place due to their financial dependence, and even close relationship to the perpetrator. As a result, victims will be discouraged from seeking help and endure abuse, and communities will be less safe by reducing reporting and prosecution of crimes. 
  • Victims are Often Wrongfully Convicted for Domestic Violence Crimes: Immigrant victims are vulnerable to being arrested and prosecuted for domestic violence, even when they are not the primary perpetrator of violence in the relationship. This frequently happens due to language and cultural barriers. Often, victims are desperate to be released and reunited with their children upon arrest and/or during trial. These factors–combined with poor legal counsel, particularly about the immigration consequences of criminal pleas and convictions—have in the past and will likely continue to lead to deportation of wrongly accused victims who may have pled to or have been unfairly convicted of domestic violence charges. 
  • No Significant Changes to the President’s Priorities Except for Discretion for Victims: The vast majority of sexual abuse, child exploitation and domestic violence convictions already fall within the highest priorities for enforcement; this amendment removes DHS discretion to consider the needs of victims. 

We strongly urge members to prioritize the needs of immigrant victims of domestic and sexual violence, and oppose the Collins bill for the above-stated reasons. These recommendations are endorsed by the Immigration subcommittee and the steering committee of the National Taskforce to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, representing hundreds of victim advocacy organizations across the country. 

Please click here to download a copy of the opposition letter. 

If you have any questions, please contact us for further information through Grace Huang, Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence at grace@wscadv.org, or (206) 389-2515 x 209, or Andrea Carcamo, Casa de Esperanza, at acarcamo@casadeesperanza.org or (703)942-5582.