Domestic violence vs. deportation

Could illegal immigrant women be forced to disclose their status when they report assault?


Lynn Harris
June 27, 2007 6:46PM (UTC)

Here's your Catch-22 of the morning: Report being assaulted, and you risk being deported. According to NOW, that's how things may turn out for illegal immigrant women if one particular amendment winds up attached to the immigration bill just revived in the Senate. That would be the Coleman-Domenici amendment (S. Amdt. 1158; text not yet available on Thomas), offered by Sens. Coleman, R-Minn., and Domenici, R-N.M., and packaged as a way to "facilitate information sharing between federal and local law enforcement officials related to an individual's immigration status." What it would actually do: Discard state and local policies (including provisions in the Violence Against Women Act) that keep immigration status confidential when someone reports domestic or sexual violence to police. (Key language: "No person, agency, or Federal, State, or local government entity may prohibit a law enforcement officer from acquiring information regarding the immigration status of any individual if the officer seeking such information has probable cause to believe that the individual is not lawfully present in the United States.")

When the same amendment was introduced during earlier Senate debate in May, it was defeated by one vote. The earlier version also included healthcare workers -- as in those treating women for assault -- among those who would not be bound by confidentiality policies.

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"This is an extraordinary attempt to punish the undocumented immigrants in our country," said Olga Vives, NOW's executive vice president, in a phone call with Broadsheet just now. "Their lives are at stake here, in particular those women who are dependent on the immigration status of their partners. For victims of domestic abuse, this is a double whammy."

NOW is calling for people to contact their senators and urge them to vote no on the amendment, one of 26 likely to be considered today.

NOW and its allies, including the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, are working to raise awareness of the other ways in which what NOW calls the "immigration 'reform' (sic)" bill would hurt women; there's a detailed summary here.


Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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