Immigration is a hotly contested political issue, and there is great momentum to enact laws that restrict, punish, and marginalize immigrants, including battered immigrant women and their children. Specifically here in Pennsylvania, there is a swelling movement within the state legislature to penalize immigrants by restricting access to public benefits, mandating reporting of immigration status by local law enforcement and other agencies, requiring proof of immigration status as a condition of a host of privileges and assistance programs, and more. Commonly, the effect of these anti-immigrant efforts is to deter battered immigrant women from reaching out for help—from police, from domestic violence programs, from economic assistance, etc.—when they desperately need it.
The domestic violence movement has been a crucial advocate for reform in immigration law that protects battered immigrant women and their children. From the creation of the Battered Spouse Waiver, to the VAWA Self-Petition, to the T, U, and V visas, our movement has been at the forefront of immigration reform discussions to ensure such reforms include protections for battered immigrants. Now more than ever, the battered women’s movement in PA and nationally is called upon to act in defense of victimized immigrants whose safety and autonomy are jeopardized by punitive legislative proposals—and has in fact responded. In particular, PCADV has zealously opposed a long-standing measure to restrict access to public benefits by requiring government issued identification as a precondition of receipt (SB 9, the “Protection of Public Benefits Act”), and ultimately secured an amendment to the bill that provides an exception to the ID requirement for domestic violence victims.
2012 ACTION STEPS ON IMMIGRATION
- Continue legislative advocacy to oppose legislative developments that harm immigrant victims of domestic violence by deterring them from reaching out for police protection; restricting their access to medical, economic, or other forms of assistance; or otherwise penalize, marginalize, and/or criminalize immigrant victims;
- Continue building relationships with allied organizations specializing in serving immigrant populations.
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