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Violence Against Women Act Focus of Heavy Lobbying

May 16, 2012

This article is re-posted from OpenSecrets.org.

This week the House is debating the reauthorization of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, and there seems to be little danger of a relapse of the relative bipartisanship that occurred at the end of April, when the Senate approved its version of the bill.

By the time of that vote, 15 Republicans joined the entire Democratic caucus in passing the legislation, which is not to say that the two sides were singing in harmony from the start. And things are worse over on the other side of the Capitol.

Even before things got tense, 44 organizations were registered to lobby on the bill as of March 31 — including, somewhat unexpectedly, eight Native American tribes or groups working on their behalf and several immigration groups.

What the native Americans want, is to close what they call a jurisdictional gap that occurs when a non-Indian man assaults an Indian woman on reservation land. Tribal police have no authority in those circumstances under current law, and statistics show in a dramatic way that the feds rarely go forward with prosecutions. The Senate bill, as it was passed, would allow tribal authorities to intervene in such cases as long as they were misdemeanors, rather than felonies. But House language could leave tribal women worse off than they are under existing law, according to lobbyists for the tribes.

Most of the immigration groups supported Senate language that would preserve certain rights of undocumented women to call police, without fear of deportation, if they are being abused.

The House bill, under a package of amendments that its sponsor was expected to¬† introduce tonight, would make it harder for women to secure “U” visas, which were designed to encourage victims of serious crimes to come forward despite being undocumented.

“The House bill rolls back existing protections,” said Greg Chen, top lobbyist for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Lobbyists on the other side maintain that the current system lends itself to fraud, although there’s little statistical evidence to support that.

A vote in the House is expected on today.

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