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Senate Passes Violence Against Women Act of 2005; Please Continue to Oppose Ill-Advised Amendments

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 05100568 (posted Oct. 5, 2005)"

The Senate, on October 4, 2005, passed by unanimous consent the Violence Against Women Act of 2005 (S. 1197), legislation that would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (PL 103-322). The Senate-passed bill mirrors the measure that was amended and passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 8, with the addition of a “technical” amendment adopted on the Senate floor. Unfortunately, during Senate Judiciary Committee consideration of the bill, Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) was successful in attaching an amendment that authorizes any federal government agency to collect DNA samples from people who are arrested or detained under federal authority in order for those DNA profiles to be included in the federal (CODIS) DNA database. This amendment will have serious implications for people who are detained on possible immigration violations, forcing them to submit their DNA to federal officials. The DNA provision has nothing to do with VAWA reauthorization, which AILA strongly supports. Indeed, this pernicious amendment has surfaced in a number of different legislative vehicles. Most recently, the House Rules Committee ruled a similar amendment "out of order" when Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) attempted to attach it to the Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act (H.R. 3402), which contains the House version of VAWA reauthorization legislation. While the technical amendment adopted on the Senate floor narrowed slightly the scope of the DNA provision, it is still an ill-advised provision and should be stripped from the final bill.

The Senate-passed bill now moves to the House, where it must be reconciled with the House-passed version of the VAWA reauthorization bill. As noted above, however, the House included VAWA reauthorization language within the Department of Justice Authorization Act (H.R. 3402). Thus, because the two bills are so different, a variety of reconciliation scenarios are possible. And while the House version of the bill does not include the DNA provision, it does include two additional problematic provisions that were approved during floor consideration of the bill.

The first of these, an amendment offered by Representative Steve King (R-IA), would prohibit any person convicted of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, trafficking, elder abuse, or dating violence from sponsoring a visa applicant in the future. This amendment misses the mark by punishing the innocent relatives of people convicted of such crimes. Additionally, the amendment is too far-reaching. To ban a person convicted of a domestic violence crime from ever sponsoring a family member for legal status is excessive. Furthermore, this proposal could be harmful to battered immigrants, as they can be arrested at domestic violence scenes for various reasons, and if convicted of an enumerated crime, they would be barred from sponsoring relatives to immigrate. Though perhaps well-intentioned, the King amendment would ultimately deny many U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and others the right to family unity.

The second amendment, offered by Representatives Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), David Dreier (R-CA), and Jerry Lewis (R-CA), would reauthorize the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) through fiscal year (FY) 2011, and would progressively increase authorized funding to $950 million for FYs 2008-11. The amendment also would require the Department of Justice Inspector General to submit a report on the state and local governments receiving SCAAP funding and whether they are cooperating with efforts to deport criminal aliens; whether they have policies in violation of current law; and, in the case of undocumented aliens released without referral to the DHS, the number of subsequent offenses committed. The report requirement is problematic because it appears to challenge state and local confidentiality policies in place around the country. To collect the required data, state and local police would have to violate these confidentiality policies by contacting DHS about any individuals who might be undocumented immigrants. Such a requirement would create a dangerous situation in which undocumented immigrants who are victims of crimes would be even less willing to approach the police. Ironically, there has been no showing that these carefully crafted policies even run afoul of the IIRAIRA’s prohibition on inhibiting sharing of immigration status data—yet another example of an enforcement solution in search of a problem.

Please continue to call your representatives and urge them to strip from the final bill all three of these ill-advised provisions—the DNA amendment, the King amendment, and the Kolbe/Dreier/Lewis amendment. You can reach the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

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