3083 "Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act"
Domestic abuse is a major and disturbing problem in this country and throughout the world. When the abused is an alien, the problem becomes more complex. The purpose of today’s hearing is to examine H.R. 3083, the "Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act."
Currently, at least 11 forms of immigration relief exist for battered aliens in the Immigration and Nationality Act. These forms of relief address many of the concerns raised by the bill.
For instance, spouses and children of abusive spouses and parents may self-petition for a visa so they do not need to rely on the abusive spouse or parent to petition for a visa on their behalf. An abused alien may apply for a waiver from filing a joint petition with her abusive spouse to remove her conditional resident status.
Battered illegal aliens also can apply for suspension of deportation and cancellation of removal by showing they have had continuous physical presence in the U.S. for 3 years, instead of the usual 7 or 10 years. The 1996 Act also gave battered illegal aliens waivers of inadmissibility for entering the U.S. without inspection and for being unlawfully present in the U.S. if they can show a connection between the immigration violation and the battery or abuse.
The 1996 Act exempted battered aliens from the requirement that their spouse file an affidavit of support, which is used to overcome the public charge ground of inadmissibility. The 1996 Act also amended the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act so that battered aliens can qualify for federal benefits such as Head Start, educational assistance programs, and child nutritional programs.
The bill we are considering today, H.R. 3083, gives aliens who claim to have been battered additional forms of immigration relief. Supporters of the bill say that legal protections for battered aliens need to be restored and expanded so that they can flee violent homes, obtain court protection, and cooperate in the criminal prosecution of their abusers, without fear of deportation. However, most of the benefits created in this bill do not require battered aliens to cooperate with law enforcement officers to enable them to investigate or prosecute the aliens’ abusers. This is contrary to the alleged purpose of the bill.
The bill permits a self-petitioning spouse and child of a U.S. citizen to remain as immediate relatives, even if the abusive U.S. citizen loses citizenship or dies after a petition is filed.
It exempts abused spouses from the conditional residency status requirement after obtaining a fiancée visa if the alien seeks adjustment of status based on an approved battered self-petition visa. It also permits divorced abused aliens to naturalize in 3 years, as if no divorce occurred, instead of 5 years.
Some provisions in the bill raise concerns. The bill restores section 245(i). Section 245(i) rewarded illegal aliens and Congress wisely repealed it several years ago.
The bill also deletes the time-stop rule for battered aliens. This could lead to dilatory tactics in court for up to 3 years, after which an alien becomes eligible for cancellation of removal.
The bill also waives several grounds of inadmissibility and deportability. These grounds are unrelated to battery or cruelty and should not be waived. The waivers do not further the stated purpose of this bill.
For example, the bill deletes the 3 and 10-year bars of inadmissibility if an alien has been unlawfully present in the U.S. and has been battered. With this provision, a claim of battery becomes a trump card to deportation for almost any illegal alien.
The bill contains waivers for many crimes, including aggravated felonies, if the alien can show the crime was related to being abused. Should criminal and illegal aliens receive this relief simply because they claim to have been abused? This could open up our immigration system to widespread fraud as criminal and illegal aliens learn that the way to defeat our immigration laws is to claim to be battered?
The bill removes the requirement that a battered alien live with the abuser in the U.S. This grants self-petitioning relief to battered aliens living abroad. Perhaps this was unintended. It also deletes the good moral character and extreme hardship requirements for the self-petitioner.
H.R. 3083 extends self-petitioning to battered aliens who file within 2 years of divorce or whose U.S. citizen spouse died. If the spouse is deceased or divorced, the alien of course is no longer in the abusive circumstances that give rise to the visa. So the stated purpose of the bill - to allow women to flee violent homes - is not achieved by this provision.
In short, the bill aims to achieve worthy goals but can be improved. I hope the sponsors of the bill will consider the changes I’ve suggested.